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Peter Robinson: Ten days to find Stormont agreement as 'political snipers look for failure'

Secretary of State: Next week could be crucial to the success or failure of this process

Published 29/10/2015

First Minister Peter Robinson
First Minister Peter Robinson

First Minister Peter Robinson has said there are 10 days for Northern Ireland's parties to reach agreement as he warned "political snipers" are trying to wreck the chance of a deal.

It comes as crisis talks are ongoing in a bid to break the political impasse on welfare reform, the budget, legacy issues and paramilitary activity.

The DUP leader speaking at Stormont said that parties are reaching a "vital stage".

He said: "We are coming to the vital stage, the endgame.

"It is my view that if we cannot reach agreement, then the process itself will be terminated.

Mr Robinson called for "necessary leadership" to find the agreeement.

He said: "There are those who are sitting on the sidelines.

"We know who they are. They are the whingers, the wreckers, the political snipers who look for failure, who hope for failure so they might personally, or from a party point-of-view, benefit."

The DUP leader, in an apparent swipe at his unionist rivals said there is one party not engaged with talks.

"There are people, quite clearly, who think they will have some advantage if the process breaks down - you know who they are as well as I do, and I don't particularly want to give them any further coverage.

"To use a recently quoted phrase, they are on the wrong side of history if they think it is advantageous to bring this process down."

On Wednesday Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said the timeframe for reaching an overall deal is "days, not weeks".

Mr McGuinness said he believed a deal was "achievable" and that the bilateral discussions were "intensifying".

But he also claimed there had been an attempt to "sabotage" the talks in the last few weeks.

"The best prospects for success in any negotiations is for all parties to come at them in good faith," he said.

"The difficulty about recent times is that some parties can't get out the door quick enough to say something which negatively feeds into what we're trying to do."

He pointedly told reporters in Parliament Buildings yesterday that neither his own party nor the DUP were responsible for the briefings. But he added: "I do think other parties have done that and it is not conducive to getting a good outcome."

Today Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers said there is "very limited time left" in reaching a conclusion.

She said: “I am encouraged that the parties are continuing to engage intensively but difficult issues remain. We have very limited time left.

“It is essential a successful conclusion is reached very soon. Next week could be crucial to the success or failure of this process.

“The Stormont House Agreement has to be implemented in full and we need measures to address paramilitary activity if we are to make progress in building a brighter more secure future for Northern Ireland.”

The latest crisis to strike Stormont came following the murder of Kevin McGuigan outside his Short Strand home in August.

The crisis was sparked following the PSNI Chief Constable's assessment that members of the PIRA were involved.

Subsequently DUP leader Peter Robinson resigned all ministers except for Arlene Foster continued as finance minister during the ongoing Stormont crisis.

Mr Robinson then stepped aside as First Minister with Mrs Foster acting up in the interim.

However following the publication of a Government-ordered review of paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland the DUP leader resumed his duties as Stormont First Minister and his resigned ministers returned to office.

The independent assessment of paramilitary structures found that all the main republican and loyalist groups, including the Provisional IRA, still exist; that members have committed murders since the ceasefires of the 1990s; but that their leaders are now committed to peace.

While Mr Robinson said his party was returning to the Executive, he warned that Stormont's problems were not over and insisted on-going political talks aimed at resolving a raft of disputes besetting powersharing only had two weeks to find resolution.

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