Ford hits out at 'total lack of urgency' over new peace talks
Published 16/06/2014 | 11:00
Urgent talks to hammer out a deal on some of Northern Ireland's most divisive issues have still not been arranged almost two weeks after it was agreed to hold them.
There is now less than a month to go before the Twelfth celebrations – which descended into rioting in north Belfast last year after an Orange Order parade was prevented from walking past the mainly nationalist Ardoyne area.
Justice Minister David Ford accused Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness of "a total lack of urgency" for failing to arrange talks on parades, flags and dealing with the past.
It was hoped that two separate three-day sessions of talks involving the five Executive parties could lead to a deal that would reduce tensions during this summer's marching season.
Mr Ford told his party's ruling council in Newcastle on Saturday: "It is now exactly 12 days since Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness agreed to hold these all-party talks, and promised to deliver a paper on the details within 48 hours.
"Yet so far, no details whatsoever on the arrangements for these meetings have been given to the parties.
"There are meant to be two periods of intensive talks before the start of July, but there has so far been a total lack of urgency coming from the First and Deputy First Ministers.
"The reality is that, if the will is there, we can resolve these issues in these talks.
"However, if it is taking nearly two weeks for Robinson and McGuinness to organise their diaries, then it suggests the will is not there."
And Gerry Adams yesterday accused the DUP of being held to ransom by the "extreme right" of unionism before the talks.
The Sinn Fein president said the party's partners in government at Stormont had failed to face down so-called rejectionists.
Mr Adams told a republican commemoration near Dublin: "Two weeks ago party leaders in the North agreed to re-engage in intensive talks around these issues.
"Since then, however, we see no evidence that the DUP is willing to approach this process in a positive, constructive way.
"This is all to do with what is happening within political unionism."
Mr Adams said the DUP and UUP were being challenged by those on "the more extreme right right such as the TUV and Ukip".
He added: "This is a consequence of the huge failure by the UUP and the DUP to face down these rejectionists in the same way as Sinn Fein has done with anti-agreement elements on the fringes of republicanism."