ressure is building on the UK and Irish governments to “do more” as the political stalemate in Northern Ireland is branded the “seventh circle of hell”.
The Stormont Assembly has been effectively collapsed for more than a year while the DUP refuse to participate until they are satisfied that the UK has acted to protect the region in post-Brexit arrangements.
Speaking after meeting a large group of US politicians during a visit to Belfast, DUP MLA Emma Little-Pengelly insisted things could move quicker with political willingness on the part of the UK government.
Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy said the UK and the Irish governments have a responsibility to work together to resolve the impasse.
During the meeting with the US politicians, Alliance MLA Kellie Armstrong said Northern Ireland is “in the political equivalent of the seventh circle of hell”.
Speaking to the media after the meeting, Ms Armstrong said she was inspired to make the reference to Dante’s Inferno after being asked by the US delegation how things were going in Northern Ireland.
“It feels like we’re going round in circles, we’re not getting anywhere fast, we have a budget that is causing so many problems in Northern Ireland and sadly we have no legislature here to take any solutions forward,” she said.
“The DUP are the people who need to take a decision about the Windsor Framework, I’m hoping that they can do that very quickly so that we can all get back.”
Responding to a question around whether parties felt embarrassed meeting the delegation in Parliament Buildings that were not functioning politically, Mr Murphy said if there was embarrassment it should belong to the DUP.
Mr Murphy also said his party has had meetings with the UK government over the summer, and detected “no urgency” to get Stormont functioning again.
He said his party raised that with Irish premier Leo Varadkar when he visited Belfast earlier this month.
“The penny seems to be dropping in Dublin at least,” he said.
“It is not a tenable situation to allow this to drift on. We’re moving now into the implementation phase of the (Brexit) protocol arrangements and the DUP are still holding out in terms of negotiations.
“The two governments are co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement, they have a responsibility for taking action, for working together in the first instance, which would be a welcome development, and taking action to ensure that these institutions are put back in place.
“It shouldn’t continue one day longer. It wasn’t tenable when the DUP brought down the institutions, and it’s certainly not tenable now.”
Pressed for a timescale on her party’s discussions with the UK Government to secure what they need to return to Stormont, Ms Little-Pengelly said it could happen quickly with political willingness.
“We are engaged in a process of back and forth in terms of the constructive discussion to try to find resolution to the issues,” she said.
“We have been very clear with the Government in the document we have given them, what we need to see, and we have highlighted the concerns and issues raised to us by businesses about the Windsor Framework, and I think it’s very clear there are a lot of questions around what the implementation of all of this will mean.
“We want to find solutions, we haven’t been prescriptive about what those are because we want to get the maximum flexibility.
“I think there is, at the moment, a real obligation on the UK Government to build that trust with the people of Northern Ireland, fulfil what it is that the Prime Minister and his Government have promised to the people of Northern Ireland, and that’s what we’re waiting to see.
“These things can be done very, very quickly if there is political willingness to stretch, and to move and to find solutions. We believe this can be done very quickly if that willingness is there and we would urge the Government to find those workable solutions sooner rather than later and to allow for the stabilisation of things here.”