Michelle O’Neill calls for ‘speedy resolution’ to talks on NI Protocol

Michelle O’Neill calls for ‘speedy resolution’ to talks on NI Protocol

The UK and EU have been urged to reach a “speedy resolution” to talks around the Northern Ireland Protocol.

There has been speculation that the two sides are close to agreement.

The DUP is refusing to re-enter devolved government at Stormont until unionist concerns over the protocol are addressed.

This has resulted in a year of political paralysis in Northern Ireland.

Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill said the region has been in “limbo for too long”.

Speaking as teachers and health workers took part in strike action, Ms O’Neill said she wants to see the protocol talks resolved and Stormont resurrected swiftly.

Ms O’Neill, who is poised to become First Minister when Stormont returns, met with business representatives in Belfast on Tuesday.

She said they share her desire for a resolution to the protocol talks.

“They very much, like ourselves, hope to see a resolution be arrived at very quickly, I think the time for doing a deal is now and we want to see the restoration of the (Stormont) Executive in the aftermath of that,” she told reporters.

“Today’s public sector strikes show and demonstrate again that we need to have a local functioning Executive because we need to stand firm against the austerity agenda of the Tories and how that is impacting on people’s lives here.”

Asked if she was concerned about a potential stumbling block in the negotiations, Ms O’Neill said: “I want to see a resolution sooner rather than later, I think that now is the time for that to be done. We have been in this limbo period for far too long.”

Ms O’Neill added: “This has always been an issue between the UK and EU side, they’re the two negotiating partners, it’s for them to reach an agreement.

“We have made our view very clear. We know that we need to maintain the protocol and its protections, particularly for the all-island economy, protection of the Good Friday Agreement but, alongside that, we’re very relaxed and want to see those things that are working maintained, the things that need to be smoothed out, that’s also what should be achieved in these discussions.”