Sinn Fein leaders in London over Northern Ireland political stalemate

Sinn Fein leaders accuse Tories of ‘pandering’ to unionists amid Northern Ireland political stalemate as they visit Parliament – with Mary Lou McDonald predicts a referendum on Irish unity before the end of the decade

  • Mary Lou McDonald and deputy Michelle O’Neill will visit Parliament later today
  • Republican party has seven MPs, but they refuse to take their seats in Commons
  • The last high profile visit by party leaders to Parliament was in 2015 
  • Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness met then Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

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Sinn Fein’s leaders accused the Tories of pandering to the DUP ahead of a rare visit to Westminster today, in which they will seek to break the political deadlock gripping Northern Ireland.  

Party president Mary Lou McDonald and vice president Michelle O’Neill will visit Parliament later to meet with politicians in their most high profile visit to the capital in years. 

The republican party has seven MPs, but they refuse to take their seats because it involves swearing their allegiance to the Queen. 

The last high profile visit by party leaders to Parliament was in 2015 when Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness met with then Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. 

Ms McDonald was also among those who visited on that occasion, and today she told Good Morning Britain she expected a referendum on Irish unification to take place within a decade.

The Sinn Fein president confirmed that her party has invited all MPs and members of the House of Lords to attend a briefing session at Westminster tonight for a ‘conversation about change, about what’s happening in Ireland, about the (Northern Ireland) protocol and the absolute urgency and necessity to get the Executive up and running’.

It is understood no Government ministers are planning to attend.  

The Democratic Unionist Party collapsed the power-sharing executive in February in protest at the Northern Ireland Protocol of Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal with the EU, which introduced customs checks between Ulster and Britain. 

And the hardliners have refused to reconvene it post election, now they are no longer the largest party. 

Ms O’Neill told the BBC: ‘The British government needs to stop pandering to the DUP.

Party president Mary Lou McDonald and vice president Michelle O’Neill (pictured this week with Nicola Sturgeon) will visit Parliament later to meet with Tory politicians in their most high profile visit to the capital in years.

The last high profile visit by party leaders to Parliament was in 2015 when Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness met with then Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Ms McDonald was also among those who visited on that occasion, and today she told Good Morning Britain she expected a referendum on Irish unification to take place within a decade.

‘The DUP’s voice does not reflect the wider view at home. And the reality is that the Protocol is working.’

‘It is only Boris Johnson and the DUP, in their approach, that are the outlier here.’

Ms O’Neill leads the largest party at Stormont following the election earlier this month, the first time a nationalist party has come out on top.

But she cannot form a devolved government at Stormont as First Minister without the DUP nominating a Deputy First Minister.

She also claimed today she does not get ‘too hung up’ on what she calls Northern Ireland.

She usually tries to refer instead to the ‘North of Ireland’ but referred to ‘Northern Ireland’ in the Assembly earlier this month, said people should be ‘a bit relaxed about those things’.

Asked if she could refer to it as Northern Ireland, she said: ‘Yes, and I have done in the past week.

‘And I think it’s important that also if the democratic outcome of the election is respected I would be the First Minister of the Northern Ireland Executive.

‘So I think we shouldn’t get hung up on those things. It’s the beauty of the Good Friday Agreement – British, Irish or both or neither.

‘So I think that that’s important. I think we should be a bit relaxed about those things.’

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