Belfast Telegraph

DUP's Hamilton says Sinn Fein need to 'stop stalling and start engaging'

By Suzanne Breen

The DUP has accused Sinn Fein of having "checked out" of Northern Ireland politics as republicans ruled out a return to power-sharing talks this week.

Strangford MLA Simon Hamilton said Northern Ireland couldn't continue indefinitely without ministers.

Sinn Fein and the DUP yesterday met Secretary of State James Brokenshire as the government called on them to resume discussions to restore power-sharing.

Speaking afterwards, Sinn Fein's Northern Ireland leader Michelle O'Neill said there was no basis to begin dialogue again.

There was no point in going "round and round (on) a hamster wheel in an endless talks process which doesn't deliver an outcome", she added.

Ms O'Neill said: "We met the British Government today but they did not produce any firm proposals to move the process forward.

"I want to lead Sinn Fein back into a new executive but the issues of rights and outstanding agreements must be addressed."

The Sinn Fein leader continued: "When the last phase of talks ended, we made clear that the issues at the heart of the crisis were not going away and needed to be addressed.

"In the absence of agreement, the onus remains on the two governments to spell out how they intend to ensure the implementation of previous agreements, end the DUP's denial of rights and pave a pathway to restore the institutions."

DUP Strangford MLA Simon Hamilton accused Ms O'Neill's party of acting irresponsibly.

"One would be forgiven for coming to the conclusion that Sinn Fein have checked out of politics in Northern Ireland and are now only interested in the politics of the Irish Republic," he said.

"We remain ready to re-engage in talks but Northern Ireland cannot go on indefinitely without ministers to take important decisions.

"If Sinn Fein are now opting out entirely, then we need to move fast to other options that allow the people of Northern Ireland to have the government they need."

Mr Hamilton noted that it was almost a year since Sinn Fein collapsed the Stormont executive.

"Sinn Fein voters, as much as voters for any party, need a government up and running again to deal with issues in health, in housing, in education and in the economy.

"Once again, Sinn Fein use the excuse of previous agreements not being honoured. An excuse which, time and again, has been proven to hold no water," he said.

Mr Brokenshire introduced a budget for Northern Ireland in the House of Commons earlier this month. He has warned of a "glide path" to direct rule if a deal isn't reached to restore devolution.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said he had told the Secretary of State to call all-party talks, but "with an independent chair".

"All progress from DUP/SF negotiations should be made public," the Foyle MLA added.

"If Sinn Fein don't want to turn up that's up to them. If SF are setting preconditions for talks, they have very short memories."

Belfast Telegraph

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