Michelle O’Neill calls for immediate UK action on Stormont as Youth Assembly takes over parliament

Sinn Féin’s Stormont leader has written to Northern Ireland Secretary saying the patience of the public has been tested ‘beyond all reasonable limits’ by impasse

Sinn Féin’s Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill has called for “immediate action” from the UK government to address the political stalemate in Northern Ireland, as the latest Youth Assembly arrived to Stormont to begin debates amid the long absence of official institutions.

Ms O’Neill wrote to Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris in recent days stating that the “patience of the public and all those concerned has been tested beyond reasonable limits”.

The powersharing institutions at Stormont have been suspended for more than 18 months due to a protest by the DUP over post-Brexit trading arrangements.

The unionist party has been involved in negotiations with the government about the Windsor Framework, which reformed the Northern Ireland Protocol, and is seeking further assurances, by way of legislation, over Northern Ireland’s place in the UK internal market.


Mr Heaton-Harris has said the negotiations are nearing a conclusion, stating last week that they were in the “final, final stages”.

In her letter, Ms O’Neill called for “immediate action to address the political stalemate”.

She said that despite elements of the Windsor Framework being operational since October, negotiations between the UK government and the DUP “have not delivered a successful outcome to date”.

Ms O’Neill said this was despite repeated assurances from both the Secretary of State and DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson that they are almost at a close.

She said “ample space and time” had been afforded for all parties involved to engage constructively.

The Sinn Féin Stormont leader also emphasised the “urgency on the government to conclude these negotiations”. Ms O’Neill urged the Northern Ireland Secretary to respond swiftly to her to “address the gravity of the situation”.

The Northern Ireland Office has been approached for comment.

Ninety young people from across Northern Ireland meanwhile came together at Stormont for the inaugural sitting of the second Northern Ireland Youth Assembly.

The Youth Assembly was founded in April 2021 and Saturday’s sitting welcomed the new members and signalled the official start of the 2023-2025 mandate.

Assembly Speaker Alex Maskey said: “I am delighted to see our second intake of Youth Assembly members attend their first sitting in Parliament Buildings.

“Having worked closely with the inaugural Youth Assembly, I have observed first hand the importance and benefits of giving a voice to young people.”

Mr Maskey said he was also pleased that members of the first Youth Assembly had come along to Saturday’s meeting.

He said: “They have been a great example of the importance of giving young people their say and made a number of important recommendations on issues such as climate change, mental health and the rights of children and young people.

“It is crucial that they have the opportunity to interact with the new members and to discuss their experiences as members of the inaugural Youth Assembly.”

During their two-year term, Youth Assembly members will meet regularly in Parliament Buildings, in meetings chaired by the Assembly Speaker.

They will also participate in smaller committee meetings to discuss their ideas, views and recommendations. – PA