Michelle O'Neill: powersharing talks have made no progress

Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill addresses the media surrounded by party colleagues in the Great Hall of Parliament Buildings, Stormont.
Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill addresses the media surrounded by party colleagues in the Great Hall of Parliament Buildings, Stormont.

Talks to restore powersharing in Northern Ireland have made no progress so far, Sinn Fein has said.

A deal to rescue the crisis-hit devolved institutions will only be achieved if there is a "step change" in approach from the Democratic Unionists and the UK government, the republican party's leader at Stormont, Michelle O'Neill, said.

Mrs O'Neill delivered a bleak assessment of the first three days of the two-week negotiation process.

She said while there had been numerous meetings involving the UK and Irish governments and Stormont's five main parties, the discussions were not producing results.

"We have seen no progress to date - nothing that we could report that's anything significant," she said.

Northern Ireland Secretary of State James Brokenshire instigated the 10-day talks initiative after last month's negotiations to form a new powersharing administration ended in failure.

Parties missed a deadline to get a government up and running within three weeks of March's snap Assembly election.

Devolution crashed in January over a row about a botched green energy scheme.

The subsequent election campaign laid bare a series of other vexed disputes dividing the two main parties - the DUP and Sinn Fein.

Two of the main stumbling blocks in the way of a successful outcome are the contentious issues of Irish language protections and how to deal with the toxic legacy of the Troubles.

"So far we have had a lot of meetings, a lot of engagement but not a lot of progress," said Mrs O'Neill.

"It is very clear to us that the DUP and British government have failed to focus on the key issues of the recent election. Our position is very clear - we will not return to the status quo."

Mrs O'Neill said the UK government was standing in the way of progress on legacy issues.

She said movement was also needed on equality issues.

"We want these institutions to work, we want them to deliver for all citizens, but that's the very point - they have to deliver for all citizens on the basis of equality, respect and integrity."

The Mid Ulster Assembly member said her party would remain engaged in the process throughout.