Belfast Telegraph

Fianna Fail's Micheal Martin blasts DUP and SF for 'wasting years'

By David Dawson

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has launched a scathing attack on the DUP and Sinn Fein, claiming years have been lost due to political "inaction and crisis" at Stormont.

Mr Martin said "deep problems" had been allowed to escalate alongside the stalemate, including "the highest poverty rates on these islands".

His comments come in a platform piece for this newspaper, summarising key points from an outspoken speech on Northern Ireland in the Dail yesterday.

Read More: Micheal Martin: Parties' failure to form Executive leaves Northern Ireland more isolated than ever before

There has been speculation about Fianna Fail launching a concerted effort to enter politics in Northern Ireland.

Mr Martin said the two main Stormont parties had "consistently failed to show respect" for the core principles of the Belfast Agreement "and in particular the requirement that the Executive operates in an open and inclusive manner".

"And while this has been going, on deep problems have been allowed to escalate," he added.

"Northern Ireland has the highest poverty rates on these islands and a health crisis that gets worse each year.

"Enough time has been wasted. Not days or weeks - but years have been wasted.

"It's time to stop the manoeuvres and start delivering for the people of Northern Ireland."

The Fianna Fail leader said Brexit issue critical and that the interests of Northern Ireland had become "marginalised".

He added: "Northern Ireland and the whole of this island needs the northern parties to agree a Brexit agenda which seeks special status where this is possible and achieves recognition in London and Brussels for the fact that every permanent resident of Northern Ireland will retain the right to EU citizenship after Brexit is complete through their right to Irish citizenship."

In his Dail speech Mr Martin also claimed the RHI scandal was "never the real cause" of the collapse of power-sharing in January.

He said Sinn Fein withdrew from the Executive "because of a refusal to establish an inquiry which has actually been established".

He also said addressing the controversy "is not difficult", adding: "Given how fast the inquiry is likely to be completed and how the Sinn Fein Minister for Finance established it and set its terms of reference, calls for an independent investigation have obviously been met.

"If some extra guarantees are required to demonstrate that the DUP leader cannot interfere with the inquiry, these should be relatively easy to put in place."

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