Belfast Telegraph

DUP story over draft deal row doesn't add up, claims Empey

By Suzanne Breen

The Ulster Unionists are calling for "openness and honesty" from the DUP about their talks to restore devolution with Sinn Fein and are claiming the party's story on the Irish Language Act "doesn't add up".

Journalist Eamonn Mallie said he had "incontrovertible proof" that DUP leader Arlene Foster gave Sinn Fein vice-president Michelle O'Neill a hard copy of a draft agreement text before the talks collapsed last month.

He has published what he claims is an email chain between DUP adviser Philip Weir and the head of Mrs O'Neill's office Stephen McGlade. In the email at 7.52pm on February 9, and published on the journalist's website, Dr Weir writes to Mr McGlade saying "attached is latest overall text we have. I told Conor (Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy) would send u through.

"Arlene gave Michelle hard copy earlier but have been a couple of small tweaks since then to copy she had".

When asked last week by the BBC if Mrs Foster had given the 13-page draft agreement to Mrs O'Neill, DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds replied: "That's news to me. I would be highly surprised if that happened."

UUP chairman Lord Empey said there was "overwhelming evidence that the DUP negotiating team was moving towards an agreement which contained an Irish Language Act".

He said: "The time has come for openness and honesty from the DUP. Their story doesn't add up and there is a growing public mood that only when there is total transparency can we begin to understand the full extent of the challenge ahead.

"Both Sinn Fein and the DUP have run Stormont into the ground. At a time when our public services are under enormous pressure and Brexit is reaching a key decision-making moment, these two parties are seen as being incapable of delivering anything else but stalemate and confrontation for Northern Ireland.

"I urge them to tell the truth now. The people are entitled to nothing less."

Belfast Telegraph

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