Belfast Telegraph

Dublin has to face down British and DUP if it wants Executive back: Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams

By Suzanne Breen

Gerry Adams has said power-sharing at Stormont will only be restored if the Taoiseach stands up to the DUP and the British Government and demands that previous agreements are implemented.

Speaking after a meeting with Leo Varadkar and Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney last night, the Sinn Fein president called on Dublin to seek a formal meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference.

The DUP said Sinn Fein should be taking its seats in the Assembly rather than "pleading" with its Fine Gael political opponents in Dublin.

Earlier Mr Adams insisted his party could still reach a deal with Arlene Foster's. But he said that while "some progress" had been made in the talks, there was no point in continuing with the "ongoing verbal table tennis" with the DUP.

Sinn Fein's Northern Ireland leader Michelle O'Neill, the party's deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald, and MLA Conor Murphy were part of the delegation that met Mr Varadkar and Mr Coveney.

Mr Adams urged the Taoiseach to "stop pretending" that the political stalemate in was due to a row between Sinn Fein and the DUP.

He said: "The DUP cannot be given a veto on rights and previous agreements. It is now time for the governments to act. If we are to re-establish the Executive, the role of the Irish Government will be decisive.

"The Irish Government are neither neutral or neutered on this matter. They need to make clear that the way forward is the full implementation of the agreements and the rights of citizens.

"These issues are not going away. The Irish Government must now seek a formal meeting of the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference to secure rights and the implementation of previous agreements."

Mr Adams, who is also seeking a meeting with Theresa May, said Sinn Fein was demanding a Bill of Rights and rights on equal marriage, the Irish language, and legacy cases.

After meeting the republican delegation, an Irish Government statement said Mr Varadkar and Mr Coveney had reiterated the importance of "effective power-sharing institutions in Northern Ireland for the overall implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, including the operation of the North South Ministerial Council, which also has a vital role in the context of Brexit".

The statement stressed that as a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, the Irish Government was determined to secure the effective operation of all its institutions.

Dublin would "continue to engage intensively with the British Government and the parties in Northern Ireland in the coming weeks", it added.

While some nationalist politicians have called for joint authority in the absence of devolution, Secretary of State James Brokenshire yesterday said the internal affairs of Northern Ireland were a matter for the British alone.

In response to a question in the House of Commons from DUP MP Nigel Dodds, Mr Brokenshire said the Good Friday Agreement set out the constitutional framework.

"To be clear, it is ultimately for the UK Government to provide certainty over the delivery of public services and those strand one issues in relation to Northern Ireland," he said.

Mr Dodds welcomed Mr Brokenshire's statement as "recognition of the constitutional status of Northern Ireland" and said it shouldn't surprise anyone.

"The Secretary of State repeated clearly that issues internal to Northern Ireland are a matter only for the UK Government and the House of Commons to deal with," he said. "Indeed, that is also the Irish Government's position in recognition of the three-stranded process which has been in place for many years. Strand one matters do not involve the Republic of Ireland despite what Sinn Fein may wish."

The DUP MP chided Sinn Fein for not taking its seats at Westminster or Stormont but instead "were pleading with their political opponents for relevance" in Dublin.

"Those who talk most loudly about fulfilling previous agreements should think more about this before travelling to Dublin asking for a key foundation of all agreements in Northern Ireland to be breached," he added.

Meanwhile, Alliance leader Naomi Long challenged the two governments to quickly announce the next step in the talks in order to prevent further drift in the process. "Without that, we will see more paralysis and further crumbling of our public services," she added.

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