Belfast Telegraph

Parties clash over talks as Smith says efforts to re-establish Stormont will intensify


Sinn Fein’s deputy leader Michelle O’Neill (Brian Lawless/PA)
Sinn Fein’s deputy leader Michelle O’Neill (Brian Lawless/PA)

By Eimear McGovern

The deputy leader of Sinn Fein has accused the DUP of not being engaged in talks to establish an Executive in 'any meaningful way'.

Michelle O'Neill was responding to comments made by the Secretary of State Julian Smith on Wednesday saying there will be an intensification of talks aimed at establishing an Executive and political institutions.

Mrs O'Neill said the fact of the matter is there is no active talks process at this time and that Mr Smith's comments "have little or no basis in reality".

"The DUP have not engaged in a meaningful way in this process and have switched off in favour of their relationship with the Tories, which has been toxic to these talks.," she said.

DUP leader Arlene Foster
DUP leader Arlene Foster

In response, a spokesperson for the DUP accused Sinn Fein of "typical blame game tactics".

"We have been ready to talk over the last three weeks. Sinn Fein hasn’t turned up since August 9. The fact is that the Sinn Fein leadership has been more focused on getting away to Portugal on their holidays than getting Stormont restored," said the spokesperson.

"Sinn Fein collapsed Stormont long before our confidence and supply agreement with the Conservatives so that’s a red-herring."

Michelle O'Neill said: "Julian Smith also needs to realise that he is not an impartial spectator. His government have responsibilities under the Good Friday Agreement that it must live up to."

Mr Smith published a series of reports on Wednesday on issues like historical institutional abuse as he urged the political parties to get Stormont up and running again.

Mr Smith said: "In the last few weeks, I have met teachers, students, hospital staff, nurses, businesses, trade unions, community groups and young people and their message is clear – Northern Ireland is suffering without an Assembly.

He said the UK Government, working with the Irish Government according to the established three-stranded approach, will intensify efforts to put forward compromise solutions to the parties.

The DUP spokesperson said: "While Sinn Fein dither and blame, the DUP is using our influence to deliver more money for public services. Last week £500m for education and this week £400m for immediate pressures such as waiting lists."







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