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Foster hits back at Fianna Fail leader's 'offensive' criticism of Executive

First Minister says Martin's claims of a DUP/SF stranglehold are unjustified

By David Young

Published 19/04/2016

A war of words has broken out between Arlene Foster and Micheal Martin (pictured)
A war of words has broken out between Arlene Foster and Micheal Martin (pictured)
A war of words has broken out between Arlene Foster (pictured) and Micheal Martin

DUP leader Arlene Foster has rejected Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin's criticism of the Stormont Executive, branding it offensive and unjustified.

At the weekend, Mr Martin urged the British and Irish governments to directly intervene in Northern Ireland, claiming a DUP/Sinn Fein "stranglehold" on the institutions had wreaked "immense damage".

First Minister Mrs Foster questioned Mr Martin's grounds for criticising political leaders north of the border when, in the Irish Republic, a government has still yet to be formed in the wake of February's General Election.

"If it wasn't so offensive it would probably be quite funny," Mrs Foster said.

"Here is a man who is part of a political jurisdiction that 53 days after a general election can't form a government, yet he spends his time making comments about a different country."

At a party Assembly election campaign event outside Titanic Belfast on Monday, Mrs Foster also responded to Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt's claim that she and Martin McGuinness were "arrogant" for characterising the race for the First Minister's job as only between the DUP and Sinn Fein.

"We don't take any votes for granted and I think if you have seen the way I have been criss-crossing the country since I became First Minister I am not taking anybody for granted," she said. "Quite the contrary, if anybody's arrogant in this race it's him (Mr Nesbitt)."

Addressing his party's annual commemoration of the 1916 Easter Rising at Arbour Hill in Dublin on Sunday, Mr Martin said the British and Irish governments needed to intervene at Stormont.

"We need direct engagement by both the Irish and British governments to end the stranglehold in Stormont by two parties," he said.

"This is doing immense damage to public support for the institutions and public engagement in politics." He also called for an overhaul in the North-South bodies set up under the Good Friday Agreement.

Mrs Foster said the DUP and Sinn Fein led the last Executive because they had secured the most votes at the last Assembly election.

"It's not up to Micheal Martin to tell the people of Northern Ireland how to elect their government," she said.

Sinn Fein's Conor Murphy said Mr Martin had no credibility north of the border, noting his call to suspend power-sharing in the midst of a political crisis last year.

"Micheal Martin last year called for the suspension of the institutions in the north despite the fact that those institutions were voted for by the vast majority of the Irish people," said Mr Murphy.

"Such an approach would have shut the Northern Executive and the Assembly for a generation.

"His recent comments clearly have more to do with electoral considerations in the south and offer nothing constructive to citizens in the north.

"Micheal Martin has squandered any credibility his party had with regards to playing a positive and constructive role in the peace process with these ill-informed and ill-judged comments about the Executive and Assembly.

"If Micheal Martin and Fianna Fail are serious about contributing to the north, they should take their views to the people and stand in the upcoming Assembly election. They have refused to do this and instead prefer to snipe from the sidelines."

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