Belfast Telegraph

Arlene Foster taking Executive seat 'matter of give and take', says Sinn Fein

By Jonathan Bell

The matter of Arlene Foster taking a seat in the Northern Ireland Executive has not been discussed in the talks process so far, a senior Sinn Fein member has said.

However, Donegal TD Pearse Doherty has said there will be "give and take" on the matter.

He was speaking after Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said there would be no return to the Executive without a standalone Irish language act. It was one of the issues that lead to Martin McGuinness bringing down the institutions in January with his resignation.

However, the party at that time, also stated that Arlene Foster would have to step aside while the inquiry into the botched Renewable Heat Incentive scandal took place. It did propose that the DUP leader could step aside for a period of four weeks in order to allow an interim report into the establishing of the flawed £1bn-plus green energy scheme.

Since a snap election in March, which increased the vote for both Sinn Fein and the DUP, the two have been engaged in talks aimed at restoring the Executive.

Mr Doherty said the issue of Mrs Foster taking a ministerial role had not been discussed so far with the main issues being an Irish language act.

"What we are clear on is we want the DUP to implement past agreements," he told the BBC.

"The issue central to this is the commitment under St Andrews in terms of an Irish Language Act. So we have not not even got to this issue of Arlene Foster as minister.

"In any negations there is give and take,  but those issues haven't materialised and the DUP is still refusing to sign up to basic principles."

He added: "Martin McGuinness made it clear there would be no return to the status quo. This is about equality and the implementation of previous agreements, there will be no return to the Executive without a standalone Irish language act.

"We are calling for short sharp focused talks."

He said it was important Sinn Fein had a working relationship with the DUP "for the benefit of everyone across the entire island".

At a speech at the opening of a Sinn Fein conference on Tuesday,  Gerry Adams also called for a border poll within five years.

Pointing to the experience in Scotland, Mr Doherty said he believed a referendum campaign would gain momentum toward unity making it, as Mr Adams claims "winnable".

"The debate has not taken place on the benefits of Irish unity... and obviously there will be challenges to be addressed."

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