Belfast Telegraph

Fears main focus of Sinn Fein and DUP not on Stormont

By Noel McAdam

Sinn Fein and the DUP may each have a separate 'Plan B' if there is no deal to restore Stormont, the Alliance Party has said.

As inter-party talks focused on dealing with the legacy of the Troubles yesterday, Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry said there were fears over what would happen in the event of a failure to restore the power-sharing institutions.

"Hopefully we are inching in the right direction," he said. "I would like to think people appreciate the huge pressure that is on all of us, and there is an understanding of the consequences of failure."

But referring to the DUP's ongoing talks with the Conservatives on a new government at Westminster, and Sinn Fein's emphasis on Dublin's role on Brexit, Mr Farry said: "The fear we have is that both the main parties, Sinn Fein and the DUP, have a Plan B.

"It is up to them to prove us wrong."

Asked about Sinn Fein's insistence that DUP leader Arlene Foster will have to stand aside as First Minister even if there is a deal, he said: "This is a much bigger issue than one individual. Virtually every single party is saying they want to see the institutions back - but the question is whether they are willing to make the necessary compromises to make that possible."

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann said the issue of who will be First Minister threatened to overshadow the restoration of power-sharing.

"We are getting concerned now that no matter what happens around these talks that we are going to come back to that same sticking point - Sinn Fein's insistence on who the First Minister is going to be or not going to be," he said. "I am beginning to wonder are they genuine? Is Sinn Fein actually genuine in their engagements that are going on in these talks at all levels?"

Referring to growing problems in the health service and the education sector, he added: "If Sinn Fein is serious about respect they have to look to the respect of those people who are now on trolleys and on waiting lists, they need to look to the dignity of those headmasters who are coming back in September to school budgets that they don't know are in place."

Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly insisted his party's position on Mrs Foster becoming First Minister had not changed.

He warned: "Of course what happens in Britain with the Tory Government, and the DUP are hitching their wagon to the Tory Government, will have an impact on what's happening here."

The five main parties were yesterday due to submit responses to a Government paper outlining some of the main issues which have to be dealt with.

Most of them made clear they do not intend to make their submissions public.

The paper includes possible revision of the controversial petition of concern veto mechanism, the Irish language and Ulster-Scots, and plans to deliver more accountability in a future Executive and Assembly.

The outgoing head of the Civil Service, Dr Malcolm McKibben, also chaired a session on the proposed Westminster legislation for dealing with the legacy of the Troubles.

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