SF rejects 'Mickey Mouse' shadow assembly for scrutinising Westminster decisions

Sinn Fein Leader Mary Lou McDonald and Deputy Leader Michelle O'Neill speaking to the media outside Belfast City Hall
Sinn Fein Leader Mary Lou McDonald and Deputy Leader Michelle O'Neill speaking to the media outside Belfast City Hall

Sinn Fein's Stormont leader has said her party has no interest in a "Mickey Mouse" shadow Assembly to scrutinise decisions taken in Westminster.

Michelle O'Neill said the proposal being considered by the UK Government would deliver nothing and instead represent an abandonment of the terms of the Good Friday peace agreement.

Sinn Fein Leader Mary Lou McDonald

Sinn Fein Leader Mary Lou McDonald

In the ongoing absence of devolution, the Democratic Unionists have voiced support for a form of shadow Assembly that would give locally elected politicians a role in scrutinising decisions taken in Westminster.

The Alliance party has also proposed handing MLAs a role in examining the Government's handling of the region's affairs while the powersharing crisis limps on.

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley is examining the half-way house proposal as a potential means to govern the region on an interim basis.

Mrs O'Neill dismissed the notion outright in Belfast on Monday.

"I think we would be better focusing our efforts on where they should be, which is actually getting the institutions up and running again," she said.

"Any attempt to scramble together some sort of 'Assembly light', a scrutiny role is not the direction.

"It's clearly an abandonment of the Good Friday Agreement - it is not going to deliver what we need to deliver for citizens, which is legislation and rights.

"We have no interest in scrutinising direct rule ministers - what we want is the institutions up and running again, what we want is the executive up and running again and what we want is to be setting a programme for government and setting a budget, not focusing our efforts on some Mickey Mouse affair."

Powersharing imploded last January amid a row over a botched green energy scheme.

The rift subsequently widened to take in disputes over issues such as the Irish language, same-sex marriage and how to handle the legacy of the Troubles.

Sinn Fein has claimed DUP leader Arlene Foster agreed a draft deal to resurrect powersharing last month before pulling the plug in the face of an internal revolt among party members angry at the prospect of concessions on the thorny issue of the Irish language. It is an allegation Mrs Foster has strenuously denied.

Responding to recent claims from senior DUP figures that devolution may not return this year, Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said delaying tactics were not acceptable.

"We are not going to ask citizens to endlessly wait for the delivery of basic rights," she said.

"The truth is if the DUP or anyone else is playing a delaying game, well then I think they ought to be roundly criticised for that."