The new leader of the Ulster Unionist Party has urged the DUP and Sinn Féin to keep the “show on the road” in terms of the powersharing government in the North.
Days ahead of DUP leader Edwin Poots’ expected unveiling of his new ministerial team, and amid speculation over whether Sinn Féin will support the nomination of new ministers without a commitment over Irish language legislation, Doug Beattie said the Northern Ireland Executive “has to last”.
There is also speculation that the next Assembly elections may be called before they are due to take place in May 2022.
Our people have suffered enough, it's time politicians just held their ground
“It [the Executive] has to last, it has got to last for the people of this part of the United Kingdom, our Executive needs to keep going,” Mr Beattie told RTÉ’s The Week In Politics programme.
“So there’s an onus on the DUP, and there is an onus on Sinn Féin also to be generous with this because we are in a degree of instability, and they need to carry on and keep the Executive on the tracks until the elections in May next year.
“Then in May next year people will be able to vote as to what way they want to go forward from that moment onwards. But the last thing we need is for the Executive to collapse, for there to be even more instability here in Northern Ireland.
“Our people have suffered enough, it’s time politicians just held their ground, gave a little bit to each other, were a little bit more gracious and just make sure that we can provide for the people of Northern Ireland, particularly that we are coming off a pandemic which has absolutely decimated our lives.
“The DUP and Sinn Féin really need to do a bit of mature politics here and just keep this show on the road.”
Mr Beattie described a “tumultuous couple of weeks in unionism” but said the UUP had gone about their leadership handover in a “very different way” to the DUP.
“We have done everything face to face with our previous leader and then we have gone out to the media… and we’ve put our message across,” he said.
“We have done a smooth transition.
“Unfortunately with the DUP it has been a bit more fractious and that’s not good for Northern Ireland… we need stability here more than anything else.
“As for anybody who wants to come to the Ulster Unionist Party… we are an open party, we are a welcoming party… but it’s not a home for people who just have a different view, or want to come and settle in here. You have to share our vision for the future, you have to share our values.
“But I’ll not take anyone on board just as a home because they are disgruntled with the DUP.”
Mr Beattie said he will speak to everyone, including the Government, the EU and the UK government.
Sinn Féin nomination
Meanwhile, a Sinn Féin minister in the North has declined to say whether the party is considering refusing to nominate a Deputy First Minister this week if they do not receive assurances over the delivery of language legislation.
New DUP leader Edwin Poots is expected to unveil his ministerial line-up at Stormont on Tuesday.
He previously indicated he will nominate a colleague to serve as First Minister to allow himself to focus on leading the party.
DUP MLAs Mervyn Storey and Paul Givan are understood to be under consideration.
However, the Executive will not be able to function if Sinn Féin do not nominate a Deputy First Minister to work with the new First Minister.
Sinn Féin communities minister Deirdre Hargey said she wants to see commitments on Irish language legislation in the January 2020 New Decade New Approach deal acted on.
“Edwin Poots himself, who was one of the negotiators around New Decade New Approach back last year, he endorsed that agreement as well as the wider DUP,” she said.
“I am hopeful in the engagement in the time ahead around all of the five parties in the Executive that we can bring that legislation through in this mandate.
“It’s contained within the agreement, we want to see implementation of the agreement which works for all of the people here.
“Edwin Poots has previously said that he is a man of his word, he said that he is here to implement the New Decade New Approach agreement, and I would see that he wants to implement that in all of its parts.
“Mary-Lou [McDonald] has written to all of the party leaders, she wants a party leaders’ forum to be established and for that to be meeting this week … I do hope the party leaders can get round the table.
“The DUP leadership contest is over, now is the time to focus on delivering New Decade New Approach.”
Ms Hargey was asked on the BBC’s Sunday Politics programmes whether Sinn Féin will refuse to co-operate on the nomination of new ministers this week if they do not receive a commitment implementing Irish language legislation in this mandate.
“I think the focus now is to make sure that all of the parties, there are five parties in the Executive, I think there is an overwhelming view within the broader community that they want to see these changes come forward, they want to see the implementation of the agreement that was laid down and got power-sharing restored again,” she said.
Pressed on the question, Ms Hargey said: “Our focus is on the implementation of the agreement, our focus is making sure that the power-sharing institutions work, our focus is to make sure that the five-party Executive can work on the implementation of those agreements.
“Mary-Lou has written to the party leaders this week asking for an urgent meeting to look at the implementation going forward.”