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Alliance: Name and shame parties which don't turn up for talks

By Noel McAdam

Secretary of State Theresa Villiers should "name and shame" parties which are failing to turn up for full plenary sessions in the current Stormont talks, according to one of the main parties.

Alliance said Mrs Villiers, who is chairing the multi-party meetings, should "call out" the DUP, which has yet to attend a round-table session involving all the parties.

Deputy leader Naomi Long said she believed the DUP, Sinn Fein and Ulster Unionists had "mentally checked out" of the Assembly and were focused instead on early elections.

The Ulster Unionists said Mrs Long was being "disingenuous", and Sinn Fein MP Conor Murphy hit back, saying: "(We have) already held discussions with the Alliance Party so Naomi Long is quite clear of our determination to see them successfully concluded."

He added: "We told the two governments the unionists will not participate while the British Secretary of State continues to engage with the DUP on the issue of the north Belfast Orange Order parade.

"We made it clear to Theresa Villiers that is a mistake on her behalf and it's the wrong way to go about this process."

There was no comment from Mrs Villiers, who convened the talks on Stormont's budgets and reform of devolved government among other issues, as bickering between the parties continued.

The DUP was accused of failing to turn up for a meeting with the UUP during the talks this week.

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said: "The fact is we turned up on time, waited for them for 45 minutes, gave up, and went back to work."

In a message sent to party members, he went on: "Bicker, bicker, bicker... the new talks convened by the Secretary of State have hardly got off to a flying start.

"There seem to be more exchanges on the airwaves than in the actual process.

"The question that has to be asked is just how serious are Sinn Fein and the DUP about these talks?"

Asked whether Mrs Villiers should make a call on whether the talks are going anywhere, Mr Nesbitt said: "It's up to the Secretary of State to make a call, but it's far too early to make that call."

Earlier, East Belfast MP Mrs Long asserted: "We are now in a crisis situation because we cannot even get all parties into the room.

"At some point the wheels will come off because decisions will have to be made on budgets.

"We have pushed things down the pipe for the last three or four years and it has been an unmitigated disaster."

Speaking on the Stephen Nolan BBC Radio Ulster programme, she said Mrs Villiers had to step in to ensure there were fully plenary sessions and people were compelled to attend.

"If parties are not going to participate properly then she should make clear she will call them out publicly," she said.

"We need an impartial broker who is willing to call the parties out if they are not participating fully.

"I think there are other parties who have mentally checked out of the institutions because they are not comfortable in those institutions."

The clashes between parties also included exchanges between First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness on social media.

Mr Robinson said he had spent 45 minutes with the Deputy First Minister on Wednesday "discussing talks issues" and had sent written proposals on the welfare reform stalemate.

Mr McGuinness countered: "Just to confirm that no full talks plenary has taken place and there has so far been no bilateral talks meeting between my party and the DUP."

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