Belfast Telegraph

Both parties must put documents on the table for their voters to see

By Suzanne Breen

A blame game was inevitable following the collapse of the talks but yesterday it ratcheted up a few notches when Sinn Fein released what it said were details of its draft agreement with the DUP.

Had it been Gerry Adams behind the claims, they would perhaps have been instantly batted away as untrue.

But this was Mary Lou McDonald and there was an air of authenticity around what she said.

Just days into the job would she really put her reputation on the line by making this up?

Sinn Fein spin was undoubtedly involved. That's par for the course in current circumstances. But the thrust of what Ms McDonald said - her tone and delivery - will have struck many folk, and not just nationalists, as credible.

The two interviews by Arlene Foster on Sky and RTE - and especially Gregory Campbell's on Radio Ulster - didn't successfully put Sinn Fein's claims to bed.

The DUP's response has been remarkably light on detail.

There is one solution to end this game of 'she said, she said' by Ms McDonald and Mrs Foster.

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann pointed the way.

"Whether they called it an accommodation, a draft agreement, a heads of agreement or some other type of a deal, it's time for both parties to publish them and publish them now," he said.

"Arlene Foster can put this to bed by telling her negotiators to publish their documentation. This is going to run and run until we get to the truth of the matter and at the minute that can only be established by both parties being honest and upfront."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has voiced similar sentiments and I can understand where the smaller parties are coming from.

Just imagine if the UUP and SDLP had been involved in endless failed clandestine meetings from which everybody else was locked out. The DUP and Sinn Fein would be ranting from the rooftops about the undemocratic nature of the set-up and the lack of transparency.

So let's have all the documents on the table for the public to see.

After all, the DUP and Sinn Fein both proudly proclaim that they are parties of the people.

Their voters, along with everybody else, have been kept in the dark for too long.

It can't be said that coming clean about the nature of the negotiations and what was agreed and not agreed will make things worse. Because, as it stands, things couldn't be any worse.

While the DUP's apparent agreement to an Irish Language Act puts that party under pressure from its grassroots, Sinn Fein appears to have totally abandoned its fight for equal marriage.

That will raise questions among campaigners as to whether Sinn Fein was ever genuinely committed to a "civil rights agenda" or if gay marriage was just an add-on to appear progressive with young voters in particular.

The only way to know the full truth is for both parties to publish and be damned.

Belfast Telegraph

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