Sinn Fein calls for Plan B if Stormont talks fail

The Sinn Fein leader has called for a Plan B to be put in place if talks to restore a Northern Ireland government at Stormont fail.

Mary Lou McDonald said her party will go into talks with the DUP in “good faith”, but the British and Irish governments must have a back-up plan to ensure any deadlock can be cleared.

A new talks initiative will start on May 7.

Ms McDonald said rights issues such as marriage equality and an Irish Language Act “cannot be left wanting” in Northern Ireland if the DUP refuses to change its stance.

She denied claims that Sinn Fein and the DUP had been “bounced” into new talks after the murder of journalist Lyra McKee during riots in Londonderry on April 18.

“The public sentiment after the death of Lyra McKee couldn’t be missed, it is correct to say the current situation of stalemate is unacceptable and intolerable at this point – something has to happen,” she said.

“We need assurances from the governments that they know what they’re doing, and a Plan B is absolutely essential because, if the parties and DUP cannot move to a place of equality, well the two governments must honour the equality obligations under the Good Friday Agreement.”

She added that the British and Irish governments had neglected their duties to Northern Ireland as they had been distracted by other factors including Brexit.

“For a long time there has been a sense of disengagement from the Northern peace process, governments have been preoccupied and distracted by other events,” she said.

“Now will be a real test of that for Dublin and London, on their understanding of the issues in the North, and their fundamental commitment to the peace process.”

Sources close to the party have said that if the DUP refuses to budge on marriage equality and an Irish Language Act, it is hoped Westminster would step in and legislate for both, breaking the deadlock and paving a way for a functioning Assembly in Belfast without red lines stalling progress.

DUP leader Arlene Foster has made it clear that her party’s position on marriage equality has not changed, and believes marriage should be between a man and a woman.

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