Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland talks 'not yet real negotiations,' says Gerry Adams

Political talks aimed at saving power-sharing in Northern Ireland have yet to reach the stage of "real negotiations", Gerry Adams has said.

Three weeks on from the start of the process, the Sinn Fein President blamed the approach of both the UK government and unionist leaders for the lack of progress.

The talks in Belfast involving the five main Stormont parties and the British and Irish governments were called amid a crisis sparked by an IRA-linked murder.

A police assessment that members of the IRA were involved in shooting Kevin McGuigan in August prompted unionists to remove all ministers but one from the coalition Executive, claiming Sinn Fein was inextricably linked to the supposedly defunct republican terror group.

The DUP has since been reinstating and then removing three of its Executive ministers in an on-going cycle, to prevent the posts being reallocated to other parties.

While the DUP has defended the political manoeuvring as a necessary response to the crisis, critics have denounced the party for leaving departments, in particular health, without leadership.

An independent assessment of paramilitary criminality commissioned by the Government in the wake of the McGuigan murder is due to report this week. Its contents could have a significant impact on the progress of the talks.

Commenting on the forthcoming report, Mr Adams warned that no sanction could be placed on any political party, claiming that to do so would undermine the rights of the electorate.

Criticising the actions of unionists in recent weeks, Mr Adams also accused the UK Government of not fulfilling its obligations. He said the Executive required more funding and claimed proposed Westminster legislation to deal with the legacy of the past was a "step backward".

"Arguably the real negotiations haven't commenced yet because the British Government have not come forward and indeed in terms of legacy issues have taken a step backward," he said.

"We continue to work with the other parties. Our focus as always is to isolate the problems and bring resolution to them.

"There is an understandable focus on the report of this commission (on paramilitary activity) that was set up and I suppose that's going to be the media focus in the coming days."

He added: "No group can bring in any sanctions or undermine in any way the rights of the electorate."

Mr Adams said unionist leaders had to demonstrate they were "serious about power-sharing".

"I'd like to think we'll see a bit of sense in the up-coming period and we'll all collectively apply ourselves to do what people are very well paid to do in these institutions - that's to represent people and deliver for them," he said.

The devolved Assembly has been thrown into disarray following the murder of ex-IRA man Mr McGuigan.

The 53-year-old father of nine was shot dead in Belfast in a suspected revenge attack for the murder of former IRA commander Gerard "Jock" Davison, 47, in May.

Detectives believe some of Mr Davison's associates suspected Mr McGuigan of involvement in his shooting.

Before the McGuigan murder, the future viability of the administration had already been in doubt as a consequence of long-standing budgetary disputes, with the row over the non-implementation of the UK Government's welfare reforms the most vexed.

The fallout from the shooting and the other problems besetting power-sharing are all on the agenda in the negotiations.


From Belfast Telegraph