Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill has said she is looking forward to spending some quality time with her family this Christmas, and revealed her annual household tradition involves turkey, stuffing and gravy sandwiches.
inn Fein’s northern leader hopes households across Northern Ireland will be able to welcome family and friends during the festive period amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
With just five days until Christmas Day, the Executive is still yet to decide if families can meet indoors or if any new restrictions will be put in place as positive Covid-19 cases continue to climb.
Speaking to the Irish Times, Ms O’Neill said Christmas is a time for family and is hoping for a few days off.
However, with the emergence of the Omicron variant she said everyone is now “back in the space where people are anxious again”.
“It’s a particularly difficult time, particularly for those who are more vulnerable, particularly for those who perhaps live on their own,” said Ms O’Neill.
“At Christmas time we’re always mindful of those people, but given the past two years, what we’ve been through, then you’re even more mindful this year.”
Reflecting on her own Christmas traditions, Ms O’Neill said she still hangs up her two children’s stockings and places their presents under the tree, even though they are both adults.
“My typical Christmas Eve is that I would get up early and I would cook all day, prep all day, and the table would be set and when that’s all done we would sit down,” she explained.
“We have a tradition in our house – turkey, stuffing and gravy sandwiches.”
The deputy First Minister also said she visits her father’s grave at Christmas time and share memories with her family.
“We miss him and it doesn’t matter how many years your parent has passed, you always miss them, particularly on big family occasions or particular times of the year, particularly Christmas,” she stated.
“You remember them, but you make them there in terms of the talk about them, the stories about them, the recounting of good times that you had.”
Looking ahead to next year, Ms O’Neill hopes the world will emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic but said the Assembly elections in May will be “very significant”.
Sinn Fein will be hoping to have enough MLAs elected to nominate Ms O’Neill as First Minister, as the unionist vote could be split among the DUP, UUP and TUV.
“There’ll be elections in the north,” she said. “A very significant election coming up in May, so that will be very much my focus on the political front.
“We’ve a big job to do in terms of trying to lead us out of the pandemic and into better times.
“There’s been a lot of inequalities have been highlighted as a result of the pandemic.
“So I want to work hard in terms of trying to support families, support workers to ensure they get into better times.”