Belfast Telegraph

DUP accuses Sinn Fein of making new demands ahead of Stormont deal deadline

DUP leader Arlene Foster speaking in Great Hall of Parliament Buildings, Belfast
DUP leader Arlene Foster speaking in Great Hall of Parliament Buildings, Belfast
Sinn Fein northern leader Michelle O'Neill leads some of her party colleagues out into the Great Hall at Parliament Buildings in east Belfast to speak to the media. April 10, 2017
Little sign of change: Michelle O'Neill told the media

The DUP has accused Sinn Fein of not being serious about wanting to reach an agreement to restore the Stormont government.

Deputy leader Nigel Dodds accused their former powersharing partners of placing new demands on the negotiating table, including demands for special status for Northern Ireland post-Brexit.

Earlier, Sinn Fein's leader in Northern Ireland Michelle O'Neill said another Stormont election should be called after Good Friday, the deadline for agreement between the parties.

Ms O'Neill said there was little prospect of agreement on the way forward amid faltering talks with the DUP and British Government.

Speaking following another day of negotiations - on the 19th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement - Ms O'Neill insisted Sinn Fein was "committed to trying to deal with the issues which are there".

She added however: "We have set out what we need to see delivery on and we need to see a different approach from the DUP and, indeed, from the British Government.

"But post-Friday I think it is over to the electorate to have their say about the future.

"But clearly Sinn Fein want to make these institutions work, but they have to work for all our citizens."

Sinn Fein Press Conference

Posted by Belfast Telegraph on Monday, April 10, 2017

DUP leader Arlene Foster hit back and said she doubted Sinn Fein was interested in making a deal.

"We did say to them that after some of the things they have said (recently) that we doubt they want a deal. That is very disappointing.

Party press conference on the ongoing talks at Stormont

Posted by Democratic Unionist Party on Monday, April 10, 2017

"They are telling their people one thing and when they are in here they don't seem to want to move and to compromise and to create the circumstances where we can go back into government," said Mrs Foster.

Mr Dodds, her party colleague, accused Sinn Fein of making new demands "on a daily basis".

"It is Sinn Fein insisting on new demands being implemented - not about health, education or public services, but about narrow partisan issues which we don't think are in the best interest of the people of Northern Ireland .

"We are told this is about implementing previous agreements. But take Brexit. We have Sinn Fein now demanding special status for Northern Ireland.

"It is a ludicrous new demand which is clearly not in the best interest of Northern Ireland and is preventing the formation of government. That is one example."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood accused the DUP of failing to grasp that there "needs to be respect for each other's identity".

"At times, in many of the meetings, the DUP haven't quite grasped the fact that things have changed. They haven't quite grasped that if we just allow the assembly, the majority of the members in there, to decide a lot of those issues then we could get things moving forward."

New Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann said he was finding it difficult to remain positive.

"We are seeing little sign of progress but the Ulster Unionist Party is still here and want to get a deal by Friday because we believe it is achievable," he added.

'People should have their say'

Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald TD said on Monday night that people must have their say "if the British government and the DUP continue to block equality and previous agreements".

Speaking at a public meeting in the Europa Hotel, Ms McDonald said: "The RHI scandal and the allegations of corruption associated with the scheme was not the first DUP financial scandal in the political institutions.

"The people made it clear in the recent election that they want political institutions which are clean and credible.

"However, there has been no progress made in the talks as the British government panders to DUP efforts to block equality and refuses to implement previous agreements.

"Sinn Féin wants the restoration of political institutions based on equality, respect and which have integrity at their core.

"But to do a deal you have to have willing partners.

"If the British government and the DUP continue to block progress then it’s back to the people to have their say in a fresh election."

Good Friday is the deadline for a deal and Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire said he would make a call on the state of negotiations over the Easter weekend to enable him to move Westminster legislation once MPs return from recess on April 18.

After Friday, Mr Brokenshire will have to consider legislating to pass a budget for public spending in Northern Ireland and could introduce direct rule by ministers from Great Britain.

Two of the main stumbling blocks are the contentious issues of Irish language protections and how to deal with the toxic legacy of Troubles killings.

The two main parties are taking part in discussions along with Stormont's other three main parties, the Ulster Unionists, SDLP and Alliance Party, and the UK and Irish governments.

Devolution crashed in January over a row about the DUP's handling of the renewable heat incentive.

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