Belfast Telegraph

Can't have scenario allowing DUP to walk away again, says Sinn Fein as power-sharing talks to resume

Northern Ireland has been without a government at Stormont for almost three years (Niall Carson/PA)
Northern Ireland has been without a government at Stormont for almost three years (Niall Carson/PA)
Andrew Madden

By Andrew Madden

Talks aimed at restoring power sharing at Stormont are due to resume on Thursday.

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald said there "cannot be the scenario again" where the DUP "walk away" from a deal.

Parties have until January 13 to broker a deal, or Secretary of State Julian Smith has warned he will be compelled to call a fresh assembly election.

Negotiations began following the General Election earlier this month, however they were put on hold over Christmas.

On December 19, Julian Smith said a deal to restore the institutions could have been reached, however the DUP were not on board.

Mr Smith said that an "extremely limited" number of issues were still outstanding and he wanted "all parties to be positively part of the new Stormont".

"The DUP is a crucial part of that. I don't think time is going to make any difference. I think hanging around, delay, not making decisions is not going to make any difference, it is only going to cause more heartache and problems for citizens in Northern Ireland," he said.

DUP MLA Edwin Poots said his party would only sign up to a "fair and balanced" deal.

"There has been some effort by others to box us into a corner and force us into a position where we do not get a fair and balanced deal," he said.

Northern Ireland has been without a government for almost three years, when the Sinn Fein collapsed the executive amid a row over the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal.

Sticking points in the several failed attempts to restore power sharing since then have included an Irish language act, reform of the controversial petition of concern, and dealing with the legacy of the Troubles.

Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald said a deal can be done.

"It is in the interests of all our people that we establish good government and real power sharing based on equality and respect," she said.

"The outstanding issues can be resolved. The time for acrimony and division is over. The time for slogans and soundbites is over. The test now for every party that has talked up getting back to work is to go back to the Executive table and deliver."

Meanwhile, Mrs McDonald has also proposed a five-year time frame for a border poll.

"To that end, we need a forum or a Citizens Assembly to talk about Ireland post-Brexit, to plan for constitutional change, to ensure that the path to reunification is inclusive, orderly and peaceful, because it is reckless to refuse to plan for the future," she said.

"The Irish government and those parties who reiterate this position are acting recklessly and are not protecting or respecting any section of our people - unionist, nationalist or otherwise."

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