Leaked emails reignite dispute over talks collapse
A journalist last night claimed to have published "incontrovertible proof" that DUP leader Arlene Foster gave Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill a hard copy of a draft agreement text before the talks collapse.
Eamonn Mallie revealed what he says is an email chain between a DUP adviser and the head of Mrs O'Neill's office.
Sinn Fein and the DUP have strongly disagreed over whether a draft deal existed before talks collapsed last month.
In the email, timed at 7.52pm on February 9 and published on the journalist's website, the DUP's Philip Weir writes to Sinn Fein's Stephen 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."
Nigel Dodds, appearing on BBC NI on Thursday, when asked if Mrs Foster had given the 13-page document to Mrs O'Neill, replied "that's news to me".
"I would be highly surprised if that happened," he added.
DUP MP Sammy Wilson told BBC's Inside Politics show today: "Any agreement between the DUP and Sinn Fein would not have been done by our negotiators.
"The negotiators are not the people who make the deal, the people who make the deal are the party as a whole, and the party as a whole rejected it."
A DUP spokesman responded to the leaked email last night.
"The talks collapsed without agreement because there wasn't a fair and balanced deal," he said.
"The DUP stands ready to form an Executive without any preconditions. That's our preferred outcome.
"However, we are now focused on delivering a budget for schools, roads and hospitals through Westminster and ensuring there is a sensible Brexit."