Belfast Telegraph

Unionist chiefs Nesbitt and Dodds trade insults

By Steven Alexander

A bitter war of words has broken out between the two main unionist parties over the quality of the leadership they are offering voters.

Yesterday Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt poured scorn on Arlene Foster's claim that her party was a strong negotiator.

Mr Nesbitt said: "The DUP always talk tough when there is an election coming up, but on closer examination their claims to be strong negotiators carry as much weight as Arlene Foster's denial of responsibility for the RHI scandal.

"If we go back to the really important negotiations - those that led to the signing of the Belfast Agreement in 1998 - the DUP's strong negotiating tactic was to stand outside the gates shouting 'Lundy'. Arlene Foster should remember, she was inside the gates negotiating on behalf of the Ulster Unionist Party at the time."

Mr Nesbitt also said the DUP's "previous demand for the disbandment of the PIRA Army Council melted like snow off a ditch" in the talks which led to the St Andrews Agreement.

He added: "Time and time again over these past years, the DUP have proven themselves untrustworthy, whether in government or in negotiations. Why? Because they always have themselves, not the country, as their number one priority."

Mr Nesbitt also challenged Mrs Foster on whether the DUP will now go back to supporting what he described as "a terrorist shrine on the site of the old Maze Prison".

But DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds hit back, saying that the UUP was "hopelessly divided".

"Whether on the Brexit referendum or more recently on support for electing extra nationalist MLAs, not only is Mike Nesbitt completely out of touch with unionist opinion, but even with the views of his own party members," he said.

"People will remember him during the Haass process when he said talks were '80 to 90% over the line', before being brought to heel by others in his party. We know that even Ulster Unionists don't trust Mike Nesbitt to negotiate for unionism.

"Any development at the Maze must demonstrate it is shared space and done in a manner that can gain community consensus.

"It is a sign of utter desperation that Mike Nesbitt is returning to such long-settled issues as his dismal election campaign limps towards polling day."

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph