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Allister queries why Dublin officials had 'unfettered' access to Stormont building

By Allan Preston

Jim Allister has claimed Dublin officials were given "the run of Stormont" during recent negotiations to restore the Executive.

The TUV leader was informed by the Assembly Commission that five Irish government officials were among 14 people given passes allowing "unfettered access" to parliament buildings during the talks.

The Commission said the passes were granted on a short-term basis to officials involved in the negotiations and would be recovered in due course.

Mr Allister said the latest round of talks were solely a Strand One matter, (governing arrangements within Northern Ireland) and questioned why the Irish officials were allowed to attend.

"Given the supposed adherence to the sanctity of Strand One issues, unionist participants, in particular, need to explain why in the negotiations in which they were involved Dublin officials were given the run of Stormont," he said.

"It is clear that these were not mere 'day passes' for a specific purpose, but appear to still be extant. Rather, this indicates the embedding of Dublin officials in the talks process.

"Since the issuing of passes lies under the control of the Assembly Commission, which contains representatives of DUP, Sinn Fein, SDLP, UUP and Alliance, I am calling on those representing Unionism - who publicly assure us that the restoration of an Executive is a Strand One issue - to explain why political sanction was given to facilitate interlopers from Dublin meddling in the talks process," he continued.

An Assembly spokesperson said: "The Assembly welcomes a wide range of parliamentarians, diplomats, government ministers, dignitaries and officials to Parliament Buildings for a range of activities and meetings.

"To facilitate these visits passes are issued to those involved."

The DUP and Sinn Fein - the only parties to be included in the recent talks - did not respond to requests for comment.

An Alliance spokesperson called Mr Allister's concerns petty.

"This is a matter of security and necessity.

"The Irish delegation is included in negotiations, including of Strand Three [East-West] matters, so it is entirely appropriate to be given access without having to be escorted," they said.

"While there are no cost implications to the passes, there are cost implications to asking Assembly questions."

An Ulster Unionist Party spokesperson added that as they had not been included in talks since earlier this year, "any questions regarding the recent involvement of the Dublin Government should be directed to the talks participants".

"In this, as in previous talks processes, the Ulster Unionist Party has always operated within the three-stranded approach."

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