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Michelle O’Neill, the Sinn Féin leader in Northern Ireland, who is set to become first minister when (or if) the Northern Ireland executive is reconstituted, is due to meet Conservative MPs in the Commons later today.
Speaking on the Today programme, she said she wanted to tell them that there is clear support for the Northern Ireland protocol in the region – despite the DUP, and government ministers, claiming otherwise. She said:
I think it’s really important that … we take this opportunity to put across the fact that, a number of things I suppose, firstly that the democratic outcome of the election must be respected, that the British government need to stop pandering to the DUP, that the DUP’s voice does not reflect the wider view at home.
The reality is that the protocol is working. The reality is the business community at home want to see economic certainty. They want clarity around what’s next.
Yes, and I have done in the past week. And I think it’s important that also if the democratic outcome of the election is respected I would be the first minister of the Northern Ireland executive.
So I think we shouldn’t get hung up on those things. It’s the beauty of the Good Friday Agreement – British, Irish or both or neither. So I think that that’s important. I think we should be a bit relaxed about those things.
I want to give a special shout out to Thérèse Coffey, the secretary of state for DWP, because under her plans, the Way To Work scheme, since we launched it this year it has got 380,000 people off welfare and into work. That’s the way forward.
I want to see people not on benefits, I want to see them in work – that’s the Conservative answer and that is the answer we are offering to the people of this country.
I want to remind you, in fact I don’t want a single cabinet to go by without repeating that unemployment is now down to its lowest level since 1974.
I look around this table and I realise there are probably members of this cabinet who weren’t even born then.
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