DUP leader Arlene Foster has led a press conference on the steps of Stormont this morning, saying Northern Ireland ‘deserves better’ than almost 600 days without government.
The former First Minister was speaking only hours before protests are to take place across Northern Ireland to mark the 589 days since the collapse of power sharing at Stormont.
The power sharing executive collapsed when the late Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein resigned, citing the Renewable Heating Initiative scandal as a key reason.
Mrs Foster was speaking today at Stormont where leading party members held up a banner saying “Sinn Fein - end your boycott”.
“We deserve better, all of us,” Mrs Foster said.
“Northern Ireland may not be entitled to the World Record for no government but the DUP is deeply frustrated that we have reached 589 days without one.
“We did not need to be here. We do not need to be one more day without government. We can and must do better. The power-sharing institutions should not be held prisoner by one party. We stand only on our mandate received from the electorate last March. We only ask that others do the same. We respect everyone’s mandate through a functioning Assembly and Executive.
“The DUP was willing to be in an Executive yesterday, is willing to be in an Executive today and will be willing to be in an Executive tomorrow.
“If others insist the return of the Assembly is subject to negotiations then we will seek to defend and advance the interests of those who vote for the DUP. However, negotiations can run in parallel with an working Executive.
“Day and daily the list of issues needing decisions grows and grows. Decisions that civil servants cannot take. A direct rule minister could take the decisions and will have to do so more and more but a locally accountable minister is best.
“Each and every day of delay hurts all of us. It is time to deliver on education, health, infrastructure and all those other issues. It is time for Sinn Fein to end its boycott of the Assembly.”