Northern Ireland

Sinn Féin leader tells dissidents to 'pack up and disband'

Mary Lou McDonald

Sinn Féin's leader has said the party will not be deterred by dissident republican threats made to MLAs Michelle O'Neill and Gerry Kelly.

Mary Lou McDonald, speaking in Belfast on Saturday, said dissidents were "at war with their community".

"It's time they packed up and disbanded," she said.

Mrs McDonald also called the Fianna Fáil leader's refusal to enter talks with her in the Republic of Ireland an "arrogant and untenable position".

Sinn Féin topped the first preference poll in the Irish general election last weekend, but its total of 37 seats is one fewer than that of Fianna Fáil.

With 80 seats required to form a government in the Dáil, no single party won enough in last weeks elections to govern on their own.

Irish Unity

Speaking to party activists, Mrs McDonald said Sinn Féin was the only "all-Ireland party resolutely committed to Irish Unity".

"I want to stress again that unionists have nothing to fear from Irish Unity," she added.

"Of course some of them may see that differently. But the answer to that is to talk.

"We got the power sharing government back because we talked. We will get an agreed shared Ireland in place because we talk."

Image caption Mary Lou McDonald was speaking in Belfast for the first time since the Irish general election

Fianna Fáil said on Thursday that it would not enter talks with Sinn Féin.

"Micheál Martin's plan is to deny people what they voted for".

Mrs McDonald said the Irish electorate had given Sinn Féin "a chance to show that we can improve their lives".

"A chance to shape a government that will finally do right by ordinary people. They want a government for change," she said.

"That's why Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael were - and are - so determined to keep us out of government."

Irish broadcaster RTÉ has reported that Mrs McDonald and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin had a 15-minute phone conversation on Friday, in which she told him that "people voted for change and not a grand coalition between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael".

Before the election, Mr Martin ruled out forming a coalition with Sinn Féin, citing its historic links to the IRA as a deterrent.

In the wake of last Saturday's vote, he did not reject the two parties working together, but said "significant incompatibilities" existed.

Confidence and supply

There could be a lengthy wait to see the make-up of the next Irish government.

That is not entirely unusual - it took 70 days for previous Taoiseach Enda Kenny to form a government in 2016.

In that government, it was agreed that Fianna Fáil would support Fine Gael on key votes in a confidence-and-supply agreement.

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