Michelle O'Neill, Northern Ireland's First Minister-designate, arrived in the US on Monday, June 5, two days ahead of Prime Minister Sunak’s planned Wednesday meeting with President Joe Biden

In a statement in advance of her departure, O’Neill said she would urge the US to continue to press Sunak to prioritize restoration of the Stormont Assembly and Executive and progress the working of the Good Friday Agreement. 

I am travelling to Washington D.C to meet with U.S political leaders on the need for the Assembly to be urgently restored, and urging them to prioritise this in their meetings with the British Prime Minister later this week.

The British government’s response to the blocking of…

— Michelle O’Neill (@moneillsf) June 5, 2023

The North’s power-sharing institutions are in their 16th month without a functioning Executive. That’s because the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) is boycotting the power-sharing administration

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson insists the boycott will continue until the British government concedes tests set for it by the DUP to properly secure and protect Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom. 

Donaldson claims the Windsor Framework agreement, drawn up between the U.K. and European Union to overhaul the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol, did not pass the tests for the party to support post-Brexit trading in Northern Ireland. 

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, head of Northern Ireland's DUP. (Getty Images)

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, head of Northern Ireland's DUP. (Getty Images)

More than a fortnight ago, Sinn Féin had a historic win in the North’s local council election, outpolling the DUP and replicating its success in last year’s Assembly elections. It is now, for the first time, the largest party at council level and at Stormont. 

Speaking ahead of her visit to Washington, O’Neill said she was traveling to meet with senior US officials and politicians on Capitol Hill to update them on the current situation in the North following the outcome of the recent elections. 

She said, “The public have now spoken in two elections over the last year. They have sent a clear signal they want parties working together around the Executive table delivering for all. They want the Good Friday Agreement implemented.” 

She added, “The British government’s response to this boycott of our political institutions is lax, complacent and irresponsible. There is no sense of urgency. It has stalled the operation of the Good Friday Agreement and is leading to political drift. That must stop.” 

She described the United States as a key partner for peace in Ireland. 

Michelle O’Neill to urge US administration to press British government to halt irresponsible political drift https://t.co/Q9diPCkdz8 pic.twitter.com/SnL5P3ze9M

— Sinn Féin (@sinnfeinireland) June 4, 2023

O’Neill said it was now time for government to be formed in Northern Ireland and to seize the enormous economic opportunities now open and which were highlighted by Biden during his historic visit to Ireland in April. 

She said, “The British government by its inaction cannot give the DUP a veto over the operation of the Good Friday Agreement. The governments must act in partnership to realize the opportunities for progress, prosperity and reconciliation. There can simply be no more delays.” 

On Tuesday on Capitol Hill, O'Neill met with Representative Richie Neal, ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee and member of the Friends of Ireland Caucus, among other politicians:

Delighted to host First Minister Elect Michelle O’Neill on Capitol Hill earlier today to discuss the recent local elections in Northern Ireland. pic.twitter.com/6w0AMCqWt8

— Rep. Richard Neal (@RepRichardNeal) June 6, 2023

*A version of this column first appeared in the June 7 edition of the weekly Irish Voice newspaper, sister publication to IrishCentral.