Belfast Telegraph

Poll: Claim final 'draft agreement' between parties 'passed from DUP to Sinn Fein' - is it time papers were published?

There have been further claims of what was agreed between the DUP and Sinn Fein before the Northern Ireland talks process broke down last week.

Veteran journalists Eamonn Mallie and Brian Rowan, writing on eamonnmallie.com, claim a final document - hailed by Sinn Fein as a "draft agreement" - of around a dozen pages with annexes and other commitments was passed from the DUP to Sinn Fein days before Arlene Foster pulled the plug on the talks.

The papers included an element on the military covenant, Arlene Foster becoming First Minister, a committee on a bill of rights, a petition of concern review and those three separate acts for Irish, Ulster Scots and respecting language and diversity.

A party source said nothing had been done to prepare its people for the deal.

The DUP, however, has repeatedly denied there was an agreement, labelling the claims as "Sinn Fein propaganda".

Speaking on the Frank Mitchell U105 Radio Phone-In, journalist Eamonn Mallie said there were senior members of the DUP "who haven't a clue precisely what has been going on".

He claimed party member were relying on media reports for information on what was happening in the talks.

"The MLAs weren't given the inside story on what was being addressed or on what coming down the line, what had been agreed and what hadn't been agreed.... that is proving a very unhealthy situation."

He said the talks "iterative" process, of passing back and forth documents with contentious issues identified in square brackets and removed as they progressed was a "well-tested formula".

He added: "This was a collective leadership within a team at the top of the party, which included people like Simon Hamilton and at times Nigel Dodds."

Mr Mallie continued: "In this case, I have been told, that the square brackets were removed one-by-one after intensive negotiations.

"Observers, not within the parties, not within the negotiation teams but by officials who observe, they said 'you can't understand the sense of commitment and the intensity of the negotiations and the genuine effort of the two teams respectively as to how they applied themselves to work toward a resolution'."

He said the draft agreement which had emerged - in terms of there being no settled position on the petition of concern, or same-sex marriage  - could be argued as "not that satisfactory to Sinn Fein".

"The so-called red lines which the DUP portrayed as belonging to the Sinn Fein, not all those red lines have disappeared at all."

He claimed that "a number of quarters" had informed him that the final document, which included an Irish language act, had been passed to Sinn Fein from the DUP.

"By that stage Sinn Fein are arguing they had a draft agreement."

He said that over the course of the weekend before Leo Varadkar and Theresa May's visit and as speculation mounted a deal was being done there was a "tsunami of uprising within the protestant unionist community" on the possibility of an Irish language act with representatives getting calls of concern.

After a lengthly meeting of DUP party officers, the MLAs were later called in and they were not informed a deal had been made, Mr Mallie claimed.

TUV leader Jim Allister has called on both parties to publish their documentation to eradicate any ambiguity.

Sinn Fein is to meet with Leo Varadkar on Monday and Prime Minister Theresa May later this week.

In response, the DUP said there was "no agreement," saying the "Sinn Fein propaganda machine is in full flow".

"The DUP would never agree to anything which could be described as a stand alone or free standing Irish Language Act where one culture is given supremacy over another," a party spokesman said.

Sinn Fein was also asked for a comment.

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