Mary Lou McDonald calls for early Assembly election as DUP collapse Executive

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald has called for an early election following the resignation of DUP First Minister Paul Givan.

Mary Lou McDonald, centre, flanked by Sandra Duffy and Michelle O'Neill.
Mary Lou McDonald, centre, flanked by Sandra Duffy and Michelle O'Neill.

She accused the DUP of pursuing its own 'political interests' in withdrawing Mr. Givan from the First Minister role and collapsing the Stormont Executive as the DUP officially announced the move in the Crown Plaza hotel in Belfast.

"Today's decision for Paul Givan to resign from the Executive is all about the DUP's own narrow and self-serving political interests. It's also about the loss of the unionist electoral majority and the reality that the DUP can no longer get everything their own way.

"It is also undoubtedly about Brexit and the Protocol and the ongoing negotiation in that regard. Let me be clear, the Protocol is essential," said the Sinn Féin leader.

Ms. McDonald said the Protocol had been delivered by both the British government and the DUP through their support of a hard Brexit.

"The Protocol is a consequence of Brexit, a Brexit that the DUP campaigned vigorously for. Any notion that the Protocol will be suspended with is pure fallacy. The Protocol is here to stay. The British Government in acting unilaterally flagrantly breaches international law and there is a huge onus on the Irish government to hold London to account and indeed for international opinion to speak again, to stand again with Ireland for the protection of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) and for the implementation of the Protocol," she said.

She said the Executive and Assembly have 'a lot of work to do' and that the Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill has been in contact with other party leaders to ensure any legislation that can be dealt with within the Assembly proceeds as quickly as is possible.

She criticised the DUP, stating: "We need to be clear the DUP actions have consequences, real consequences, for people struggling with the cost of living, consequences for businesses trying to rebuild after COVID, consequences for our health services, our waiting lists.

"It is a matter of disgrace that the budget now wont be passed and that investment in services such as cancer care and mental health are now in serious jeopardy."

Ms. McDonald called for an early Assembly election ahead of the scheduled May 5 date.

"I want to be clear we cannot stagger on in the months ahead without a functioning Executive and Sinn Féin will not facilitate this. So in the absence of a functioning Executive an early election must be called and the people must have their say.

"This is one of those defining moments. We can do so much more than this chaotic theatre. Power-sharing can work but it can only work if parties involved are committed to it. Good government can deliver, of that there is no doubt, and that is what we, and we believe the other parties want to see happen.

"So if today's behaviour and decision of the DUP show anything it is again demonstrable evidence that we live in a time for real change and this includes the prospect of constitutional change as set out in the GFA."