The leader of the DUP has said that her party could cut a “balanced deal” with Sinn Fein to resurrect the moribund Stormont government – but will not cave in to everything the republican party wants.
Arlene Foster made the remarks in her New Year statement, with many of her fellow party leaders likewise issuing messages on Monday night.
Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald, meanwhile, said that the DUP “know what needs to be done” to get devolution up and running again, repeating her demands to “respect the rights of all the people”.
In a message which ranged across The Open at Royal Portrush to the upcoming council elections, Mrs Foster said: “March 2019 will also mark two years since the last election to the Northern Ireland Assembly. Sinn Fein continues to veto the formation of a new Northern Ireland Executive unless we first agree to implement their narrow wish list of republican demands.
“Of course there is room for a balanced agreement but it is unreasonable to expect unionists to roll over to every Sinn Fein demand.”
And on the subject of Brexit she said: “We have proved in the past, we will say ‘no’ when it’s a bad deal but we will stand strong for Northern Ireland and say ‘yes’ when it’s the right deal.”
Ms McDonald spoke of gay pride, the Republic’s housing crisis, and 2019’s centenary of the Dail.
On Stormont, she said it was a “disgrace” that devolution was not working, but that “no government could sustain the abuse of power and intolerance displayed by the DUP”.
She said: “We had a deal with the DUP leadership that would have reinstated the institutions. The DUP walked away ... Sinn Fein is ready for talks, to establish a new Executive working in genuine power-sharing, and operating to the highest standards of governance. A new Executive must include new ways of working, be inclusive of all parties and respect the rights of all the people.
“The DUP knows what needs to be done.”