Stormont’s deputy First Minister has said she felt sorry for Arlene Foster over the way she was treated by her party colleagues.
Michelle O’Neill reiterated her view that misogyny played a part in the internal DUP revolt that forced Mrs Foster to resign as DUP leader and Northern Ireland First Minister.
Ms O’Neill would not be drawn on who she would prefer to win the leadership contest between Edwin Poots and Sir Jeffrey Donaldson.
However, she said her relationship with whoever emerged victorious had to be one that was based on “mutual respect” and delivering outstanding political commitments from the 2020 deal to restore powersharing at Stormont, including Irish language legislation.
Mrs Foster will stand down as DUP leader on May 28th and as First Minister at the end of June.
Ms O’Neill told the PA news agency: “I am joint head of government, I want to work with the leader of unionism but that needs to be on the basis of mutual respect for each other, it needs to be on the basis of delivering political commitments that have been made.
“We had three years of hiatus, we had a political agreement in the New Decade, New Approach (agreement).
“Now all efforts and attention needs to be on working together to deliver on all the commitments that were made.
“There are many outstanding commitments that haven’t been delivered from NDNA, some because of Covid, some just because there hasn’t been a full agreement to deliver in terms timeframe.
“But I look forward to delivering on all the commitments of NDNA, including an Irish Language Act, women’s reproductive rights, rights right across the board.
“Politics must deliver for everybody and I’m certainly going to play my part in that.
“So regardless of who comes into the leadership position of the DUP, that’s the basis on which we work together – powersharing, mutual respect, working together with all the political parties.”
Asked if she felt sorry for Mrs Foster as she was forced from office last week, Ms O’Neill replied: “There’s no secret to the way in which she was treated by her own party. I think anybody in political leadership understands that it’s very difficult, very challenging every day of what we do.
“And so to be, I suppose, treated in the way in which she was by her party isn’t a very nice experience for anybody.
“So, yes, I think that it’d be fair to say that that would be the case, I would.”
Asked if she thought misogyny played a part in the heave against Mrs Foster, Ms O’Neill said: “I made that very clear in my statement last week.”