Belfast Telegraph

DUP's Foster rails at Sinn Fein's 'disgraceful' talks attitude

By Suzanne Breen

Arlene Foster has said it will take a long time to rebuild trust between Stormont's two main parties after Sinn Fein behaved "in an incredibly bad way" when talks collapsed.

The DUP leader yesterday accused the party of leaking confidential papers after negotiations to restore power-sharing broke down in February.

She claimed the party's behaviour was unlike anything she had ever witnessed in her political career.

In a blistering attack on her former partners-in-government, Mrs Foster said Sinn Fein negotiators needed to prove they could be trusted again.

"They have behaved in an incredibly bad way, therefore the building up of trust is going to take a long time and it is going to take actions," she said.

"We have heard a lot from Sinn Fein in relation to reaching out, it's about time they recognised the role they had in relation to the breakdown and in relation to the shattering of trust within the unionist community."

Mrs Foster was speaking after she met the Secretary of State at Stormont. Karen Bradley held discussions with our five main political parties as she considers how to revive the prospects for devolution.

After the last round of talks collapsed on St Valentine's Day, documents exchanged by the DUP and Sinn Fein during the negotiations were leaked to two journalists. Mrs Foster blamed the incidents on republicans.

"Their behaviour after the breakdown of talks in February was quite disgraceful, quite disgraceful," she claimed.

"It has never happened before in any talks process I had been involved in and I have been around in a lot of talks' processes. They gave out position papers, tried to sell them as the agreement."

Speaking after Sinn Fein met Mrs Bradley, party vice-president Michelle O'Neill accused the DUP of "checking out" of power-sharing and making no effort to find a way to restore devolution.

She claimed the Government's confidence and supply deal with the DUP at Westminster was now the "greatest obstacle" to the restoration of power-sharing.

Mrs O'Neill said that while she had met Mrs Foster since February at several events, there had been no "meaningful" engagement between them. "Since the talks collapsed the DUP have been preoccupied by Brexit, they have been preoccupied with their relationship with the Tories at Westminster," she said.

"They are not engaged in terms of trying to get these institutions up and running again. I don't think they should get carried away with their 'supply and confidence' deal, which we all know will be short-lived."

Alliance leader Naomi Long expressed frustration at the ongoing political stalemate and called on London and Dublin to "bang heads together" and resolve the potentially "disastrous" situation.

She said: "To me that is just unconscionable at this point. We can't allow it to extend that long into the future. We can't genuinely expect people to tolerate five years of nothing."

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann said he was glad that yesterday's meetings took place. Devolution has been left to wither on the vine for too long," he said. Local politicians across the political spectrum have a huge responsibility to get the assembly and executive back in place."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood added: "We need now a commitment to bring together the intergovernmental conference, clearing the decks of disagreement and getting on with forming a government."

Belfast Telegraph

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