Michelle O’Neill to meet Congress members and US officials in Washington

First Minister designate accuses British government of showing ‘no sense of urgency’ in dealing with the DUP’s ongoing boycott of devolved government

Northern Ireland First Minister designate Michelle O’Neill is travelling to Washington on Monday to meet senior US officials and members of Congress.

The Sinn Féin deputy leader’s visit comes a fortnight after her party’s historic win in the North’s local government elections, in which it outpolled the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and replicated its success in last year’s Assembly elections.

It is now the largest party at council level and in Stormont for the first time.

As the North’s powersharing institutions enter their 16th month without a functioning executive, Ms O’Neill said she would urge the US to press British prime minister Rishi Sunak – who is travelling to Washington on Wednesday for a meeting with US president Joe Biden – to work closely with the Dublin government and prioritise Stormont’s restoration.


“The United States has been a key partner for peace in Ireland for decades,” she said.

The DUP collapsed the executive in February last year over its opposition to post-Brexit trading arrangements.

Ms O’Neill said the “public have now spoken in two elections over the last year”.

“They have sent a clear signal they want parties working together around the Executive table delivering for all. They want the Good Friday Agreement implemented,” she said.

She accused the British government of showing “no sense of urgency” in dealing with the DUP’s ongoing boycott of devolved government.

“We will be urging the US administration to impress on the British prime minister during his visit to Washington this week to start working with their partners in the Irish Government to prioritise restoration and the full implementation of the agreement without any more delay. There is an onus on the two governments to realise the promise and potential of the agreement and its institutions,” she added.

“The negotiation between London and Brussels on the protocol is done. The elections are over. And it’s now time for government to be formed and to seize the enormous economic opportunities now open to us, which was highlighted by President Biden during his historic visit to Ireland.”

Last month, DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson insisted his party would “continue to stand firm after this election until we have properly secured and protected our place within the United Kingdom”.

He said the Windsor Framework agreement, drawn up between the UK and European Union to overhaul the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol, did not pass the seven tests set for it by the DUP in order for the party to support post-Brexit trading in Northern Ireland.

“More work is required by the UK government if we are to secure the necessary conditions for a return of the Northern Ireland Executive,” he said.

Seanín Graham

Seanín Graham

Seanín Graham is Northern Correspondent of The Irish Times