SINN Féin have pulled out of a meeting today with the British Secretary of State and the Foreign Secretary after party leader Mary Lou McDonald was barred from the meeting.

Party leaders were due to meet with Chris Heaton-Harris and James Cleverly at Erskine House in Belfast today to discuss the Protocol and the stalemate at Stormont. 

The SDLP have said that they will not be taking "part in a process today that excludes the leader of Sinn Féin"

Welcoming progress on the NI Protocol this week, a Sinn Féin spokesperson said: “Sinn Féin was hoping to build on that progress at today’s meeting with the British Secretary of State and Foreign Secretary.

“There is no time to waste, we are in the grip of a cost of living crisis, and our health workers and patients are crying out for political leadership and the restoration of the Executive."

The spokesperson added that Sinn Féin’s priority is to work together with the other parties and the two governments to get the job done.

“However, in an extraordinary turn of events last night we were informed that the British government is excluding the Sinn Féin Uachtarán and party leader Mary Lou McDonald from today’s meeting.

“This is a time for inclusion, dialogue and engagement. This is a time for mature and civil politics. There is no room for bad faith and petulance from the British government.

“There is serious work to be done in the days and weeks ahead. This is an important week and we must pull out all the stops to get the Executive back up and running and working together for all our people.

“We look forward to engaging with the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, and the British Labour leader Keir Starmer tomorrow.”

In response to the decision, an SDLP spokesperson said: "The SDLP has always stood by the principle of maximum inclusion in talks.

"We will not take part in a process today that excludes the leader of Sinn Féin.

"We have proposals to get the Assembly back that we want to put to other parties in inclusive talks. That needs to happen."

A spokesperson for the British Government said: "This meeting is for Northern Ireland politicians to talk through issues around the Northern Ireland Protocol with SOSNI and the UK Foreign Secretary.

"The leader of Sinn Fein in the assembly was invited and remains invited. Her attendance is a matter for Sinn Féin but she was not excluded."