After attending the CHAMP breakfast at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, Ulster Unionist Party Leader Robin Swann MLA has stated that there is no indication that devolution is coming back anytime soon based on the comments of the leaders of the two largest parties.
Robin Swann MLA said:
"The organisers of the CHAMP breakfast in Manchester offered the leaders of the two largest parties a stage to present a positive case for all the people of Northern Ireland but instead we heard contributions which didn’t leave much room for optimism. We didn't hear anything new and Michelle O'Neill managed to suck the atmosphere out of the room with her comments, but maybe that was deliberate. It is disappointing that nearly twenty years after the Belfast Agreement, the people of Northern Ireland's right to self-determination is still a mystery to Sinn Fein.
"The Belfast Agreement is unequivocal. Northern Ireland is British for as long as the people of Northern Ireland want it to remain that way. Sinn Fein continually attempt to undermine the foundations of the Belfast Agreement and then have the brass neck to claim they are defending it at public events. Equality and respect is a two way street. Sinn Fein need to get their heads round that.
"If this morning was the two leaders simply playing to their base, then they need to understand that their words have wider implications.
"The comments I heard were a backward step. I didn't see or hear anything positive that would give an indication that devolution was coming back anytime soon. There is no indication that Sinn Fein and the DUP are moving towards a solution. Any optimism is fading away.
"Our party has given Sinn Fein and the DUP time and space to try to come to an agreement. There has to come a time when they do actually admit that they are not going to reach agreement or otherwise. If they can't do it together then we need to look to alternatives. We need to look at voluntary coalition or else reforming the Assembly as a body corporate. It doesn't look like mandatory coalition is going to work between Sinn Fein and the DUP if today is an indication of the frame of mind they're currently in."