McDonald: BIIC is the only way forward now

Sinn F�in President Mary-Lou McDonald visited Rev. David Latimer's First Derry PResbyterian Church during her visit to the city yesterday.
Sinn F�in President Mary-Lou McDonald visited Rev. David Latimer's First Derry PResbyterian Church during her visit to the city yesterday.

Sinn Féin President Mary-Lou McDonald has warned the British Government that it can no longer ignore calls for the re-establishment of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference (BIIC).

Speaking in Derry yesterday she said the BIIC was the only way of bypassing DUP intransigence on the Irish language, marriage equality and the past, and of resolving the ongoing power-sharing crisis.

She said: “Last week Michelle O’Neill and Pearse Doherty met with Simon Coveney [the Tánaiste] to discuss the way forward to re-establish the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA).

“After 14 months of negotiations, and after reaching a draft agreement, it is clear the DUP were unable to deal with the issues of language rights, of marriage equality and of implementing the agreement on the past. These rights can no longer be denied, and the agreements delayed.

“We have called for the governments to convene the BIIC to implement the agreements and secure the rights of all citizens. The Irish Government have called for the same.”

Mrs. McDonald said the BIIC, a key component of Strand 3 of the GFA, should now meet and do its job of promoting “bilateral co-operation at all levels on all matters of mutual interest within the competence of both governments”.

She said: “It is clear the British Government is refusing to commit to a meeting. It should be remembered that the BIIC is an institution of the agreements and the responsibility of both governments.

“The British Government cannot walk away from this institution or its obligations. The British Government have refused to convene this body, without reason or explanation.

“We will continue to meet with both governments, but they must also convene the BIIC to resolve the outstanding issues and honour the agreements. We believe this is the best route to re-establishing the executive in the north, anything else runs the risk of talks to no purpose and without an end.

“The British Government cannot be allowed to stall and frustrate the process. They need to make clear they will agree to convene the BIIC as soon as possible. There can be no further delay, no further uncertainty, the date should be set.”

Meanwhile, during her visit to the North West, Mrs. McDonald met with the Rev. David Latimer of First Derry Presbyterian Church and Monreagh Presbyterian Church, who in a sermon at the weekend cautioned that the absence of a devolved government at Stormont, was creating “a toxic political landscape” that alongside “uncertainty generated by Brexit” was combining to “subtly suck us back into the dark valley of despair”.

Mrs. McDonald also visited the Ulster-Scots Heritage Centre in the former Monreagh manse in Donegal “to obtain an overview of “Ulster Scots cross-community initiatives” in the North West.

Later at First Derry, before an invited audience comprising local clergy, members of the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary personnel, post-primary students and members of the First Derry congregation, Mrs. McDonald gave her analysis of the current political situation.