First Minister Michelle O'Neill defends ‘very partisan’ comments after Michael Martin criticism

​Michelle O’Neill has defended her criticism of Leo Varadkar after the Irish PM announced his resignation on Wednesday.
First Minister Michelle O'Neill made the comments alongside deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly on Wednesday. Photo: Peter Morrison/PA WireFirst Minister Michelle O'Neill made the comments alongside deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly on Wednesday. Photo: Peter Morrison/PA Wire
First Minister Michelle O'Neill made the comments alongside deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly on Wednesday. Photo: Peter Morrison/PA Wire

The Republic’s deputy PM, Micheal Martin, said Michelle O’Neill’s remarks “left a lot to be desired”.The First Minister made the comments at a press conference in Belfast on Wednesday, accusing Mr Varadkar’s party Fine Gael of 13 years of “failure” as she insisted it was time for a general election in the Republic of Ireland.It was a joint appearance alongside DUP deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly. “It’s not a time for a rearranging of the deckchairs,” Ms O’Neill said.“And, ultimately, it’s for the people to decide who will be the taoiseach.“So I think it’s now over to the people, there should be an election, people should have a chance to pass their verdict, particularly after 13 years of Fine Gael in power, 13 years of failure on their part, 13 years of failure to build houses, 13 years of failure to support people through the cost-of-living crisis.“So, ultimately, what we now need to see is an election.”Mr Martin referred to the remarks as he sparred with Sinn Fein TD Pearse Doherty in the Dail on Thursday.He said they stood in contrast to Sinn Fein’s “glowing” welcome for the recently announced increase in Irish government funding for Northern Ireland through its Shared Island Fund.

“I thought the comments from your First Minister left a lot to be desired.“Very partisan comments from the First Minister in respect of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, given a month ago, the glowing response to the Government’s Shared Island Initiative.“We’ve done more in respect of cross-border development and investment in Northern Ireland than any government for many a year.”Speaking to reporters in Hillsborough on Thursday, Ms O’Neill was asked whether she believed her remarks were appropriate and if she had struck the correct tone for a Stormont First Minister passing comment on the resignation of Ireland’s premier.While she said she had not heard Mr Martin’s comments in the Dail, she said Mr Martin “would rather talk about anything other than his performance and their performance in government”.