Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein calls for talks to resume next week but DUP says it's a 'stunt'

By Suzanne Breen

Sinn Fein has denied the DUP's claim that its call to start talks next week to restore power-sharing at Stormont is just a stunt.

The republican party's Stormont leader, Michelle O'Neill, insisted that Sinn Fein was sincere in its approach to fresh negotiations and accused the DUP of failing to deal with the issues.

Mrs O'Neill has written to the British and Irish governments and local party leaders asking for the talks to resume on August 28.

But former DUP minister Simon Hamilton dismissed Sinn Fein's move as "a stunt" and accused the party of seeking to avoid blame for the paralysis at Stormont which means that key decisions on health, education and the economy can't be taken.

Mrs O'Neill insisted that her party was genuinely trying to inject "a bit of momentum" into the talks and to "kick start the process".

She said that any new Executive must not repeat the mistakes of the past.

"Sinn Fein remain firmly committed to making the institutions work," she said.

"We believe in the Assembly, we believe in a local government, and local ministers taking decisions.

"But that Assembly and that Executive has to meet on the basis of rights, of respect, and of equality."

Laying blame for the stalemate at the DUP's door, she said: "What we've seen from the DUP to date is a failure to deal with the issues, which Martin McGuinness outlined in his resignation letter.

"Clearly we have to see previous agreements implemented in order to establish the Executive, but this can be done - it can be done very, very quickly if people have the right approach.

"Our resolve is to make the institutions work, to be back around the table, to work with all the other parties, to take on all the issues that we have across the health service and education, that's where we want to be." 

Mr Hamilton insisted that issues such as health, education and the economy were more important than the ones on which Sinn Fein was stalling the formation of an Executive.

He suggested that talks on the Irish language and other matters could be held in parallel to a restored Executive. He also rejected the claim that the DUP was failing to implement previous agreements on the matters of dispute.

But Mrs O'Neill said it wasn't tenable to have an Executive when there were outstanding issues on which the DUP had previously failed to deliver.

Alliance MLA Kellie Armstrong asked why the talks process could not begin immediately rather than waiting to Monday as Sinn Fein was requesting.

She said that her party had been engaging with others in bilateral discussions over the summer as well as with stakeholders.

"The talks should not have broken up in the first place, so we should not have to be talking about resumption," she said.

"This call from Sinn Fein appears to be a little cynical - if they want the talks up and running again, why wait another week?

"Why not start things this week?"

TUV leader Jim Allister said that calls to "restart the pantomime season at Stormont" were pointless.

"We need government. If, as is obvious, we can't get it from failed Stormont, then, it must be provided from Westminster," he said.

"Turning the key on Stormont may be painful for its payroll hangers-on but, frankly, I'm not sure the public will really notice.

"Has anyone really missed it over the last six months?"

Talks between the parties were postponed for the summer after they failed to reach agreement.

The political impasse between the parties has left the region without a First and Deputy First Minister since January and a functioning executive since March.

Belfast Telegraph

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