SINN Fein’s Michelle O’Neill is determined to strengthen the “bonds of friendship” with Scotland and the Scottish Government while working against a “self-serving Conservative government”, a spokesperson for the Irish republican party has said.
Following last week’s Stormont elections, in which Sinn Fein achieved a majority for the first time, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon congratulated both O’Neill(pictured) and Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald via Twitter for “a truly historic result.”
Scotland’s deputy first minister John Swinney later commented to Sky News that Sinn Fein’s newfound status as the largest party in Stormont meant “we would have political leadership in Northern Ireland which was prepared to challenge the United Kingdom government on many aspects of its policy approach.”
Swinney added that he believed there was an opportunity for the Scottish Government to work together with Sinn Fein to “pressurise” the UK Government, particularly the cost-of-living crisis.
Speaking to the Sunday National, a spokesperson for the Sinn Fein vice-president said: “Michelle O’Neill and her team have a strong relationship and proven record of working closely with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her ministers on issues which matter to the people we both represent, not least the rise in cost of living where the British Government must act to deliver for workers and families.
“As incoming first minister, Michelle O’Neill is determined to strengthen our bonds of friendship with Scotland and with the Scottish Government as we work hard to defend our shared interests against a self-serving Conservative government and Prime Minister in Downing Street.”
Sturgeon had earlier commented on Sinn Fein’s victory by saying: “There’s no doubt there are big, fundamental questions being asked of the UK as a political entity right now. They’re being asked here in Scotland, they’re being asked in Northern Ireland, they’re being asked in Wales and I think we’re going to see some fundamental changes to UK governance in the years to come, and I am certain one of those changes is going to be Scottish independence.”
In the Republic of Ireland, Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald has called on the Taoiseach to convene a Citizens’ Assembly on a potential border poll on Irish unification, and has argued that preparation for such a vote “would be possible within a five-year timeframe.”
“But much more importantly, I believe the preparation needs to start now,” McDonald added.
Despite Sinn Fein’s electoral achievement, Michelle O’Neill’s road to the position of first minister has been complicated by the Democratic Unionist Party, who this week refused to nominate ministers to form a new executive until their objections over the Northern Ireland Protocol have been addressed.
DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson has argued that his party needs to “send a very clear message” to the European Union and the UK Government that the issue of the protocol must be resolved, saying: “Because of the harm it is doing, undermining political stability, damaging the agreements that have formed the basis of political progress made in Northern Ireland, to our economy, contributing to the cost-of-living crisis, this matter needs to be dealt with.”
Responding, O’Neill has said that any effort to block a new speaker is unacceptable, commenting: “What we need to see is the position filled – first minister, deputy first minister, all the ministerial positions filled, and let’s get down to doing business.
“It is not good enough for the people here that the DUP is holding society to ransom, punishing society, preventing the establishment of a speaker and an executive to actually respond to the things people are worried about.”