Belfast Telegraph

DUP and Sinn Fein criticism of May visit 'bid to outsource blame for collapse of talks'

By Victoria Leonard

The DUP and Sinn Fein have been criticised for speaking out against the visit of Prime Minister Theresa May as hopes rose for a political deal.

She and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar arrived at Stormont House on Monday in what was seen as a sign that agreement was imminent.

However, the day after the visit DUP leader Arlene Foster described Mrs May's arrival as "a distraction" - a description echoed by Gerry Adams in the Andersonstown News. The former Sinn Fein leader also called it "a clumsy intervention".

The talks collapsed on Wednesday, with the DUP and Sinn Fein blaming each other for the lack of a deal.

UUP peer Lord Empey said he was "shocked" at Mrs Foster's description of Mrs May as "a distraction". He asked: "How can any unionist say such a thing about our own PM, especially one that they have a written agreement with? It's worthy of note that they didn't say that the arrival of the Sinn Fein president from Dublin was a distraction."

Lord Empey also said there had been "too much secrecy and paranoia" around the talks process, which he described as "shambolic".

He added: "It is now very clear that the Northern Ireland public, and even some elected representatives from their respective parties, have been kept in the dark by the leadership of the DUP and Sinn Fein about the accommodation which they reached. Their accommodation deserves explanation.

"Many sources confirm that a deal was indeed agreed by the respective negotiating teams but then it fell apart when they couldn't sell it to their people."

Alliance leader Naomi Long said that the two main parties should stop "attempting to outsource the blame".

She said: "Regardless of the visits by the Prime Minister and Taoiseach, the proposed deal was clearly in difficulty. It is long past time the parties here took responsibility for their actions and stopped attempting to outsource blame."

TUV leader Jim Allister said that Mrs May was "always welcome in Northern Ireland". But he added: "It is rather ironic and embarrassing in the sense that she came to try and put upon us a system of government that she wouldn't countenance for one moment in the rest of the UK.

"She was saying: 'Get back to a mandatory coalition', which, if it was translated to the mainland, would mean she couldn't be Prime Minister without Jeremy Corbyn being her co-equal Prime Minister and sharing her office.

"She should have been embarrassed coming to Northern Ireland to seek to implement such an unworkable solution. Sinn Fein don't accept the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister, but I thought the DUP language was a bit extravagant."

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