Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein 'glorification of terrorism' holding up progress: Foster

By Suzanne Breen

Arlene Foster has said the "glorification of terrorism" at Sinn Fein's ard fheis has made it more difficult to restore power-sharing at Stormont.

Speaking after meeting Prime Minister Teresa May in Downing Street, the DUP leader said talks between her party and republicans should begin as soon as possible.

But she said any deal had to work for both communities in Northern Ireland and that Sinn Fein's activities weren't helping.

At the party's ard fheis in Dublin last weekend, Foyle MP Elisha McCallion described former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness as a "proud member of the IRA".

Mrs Foster said: "The glorification of terrorism at Sinn Fein's conference does make it more difficult to restore devolution.

"They may lecture others about rights, but the greatest right of all is the right to life. Sinn Fein have not only supported terrorism in the past, but they continue to eulogise and glorify the murder of innocent people.

"In a rights-based society where there is equality and respect for everyone, innocent victims should also be treated with respect and not be subjected to such offensive displays."

The DUP leader claimed that her party wanted an agreement that could be supported by both unionists and nationalists.

"We will not make progress with a narrow focus solely on the demands of nationalism or republicanism," she added.

Mrs Foster described her talks with the Prime Minister as "very useful and positive" and stressed that her party had no "red lines" on re-entering an Executive.

"It was made very clear to the Prime Minister that talks must continue, but the internal affairs of Northern Ireland are and will remain a matter entirely for the UK Government, the House of Commons and the parties in Northern Ireland," she said.

Speaking in Downing Street after Sinn Fein met Mrs May, Gerry Adams denied there was "a glorification of anyone" at the ard fheis.

"I also, standing outside the office of the British Prime Minister, want to refute the use of this term 'terrorism'," he said.

"Pejorative terms like that, which are about the sons and daughters of families, husbands and wives of families who happened to serve in the Irish Republican Army and who died in the conflict, I don't use those terms. So let's have a wee bit of sense about this."

The Sinn Fein delegation included the party's Stormont leader, Michelle O'Neill, the party's deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald, Conor Murphy MLA and Ms McCallion.

Ms O'Neill described the meeting as "very robust and frank". She said: "We told Mrs May that direct rule was not an option and that she must look to the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement for the establishment of an intergovernmental conference involving the Irish and British governments."

In a statement, the Prime Minister said both Sinn Fein and the DUP had "expressed their commitment to seeing Stormont back up and running".

Divisions between the two parties were "relatively small in number, focusing mainly around culture, legacy, identity and the future stability of the devolved institutions", she added.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he would call a meeting of the intergovernmental conference in the new year if there was no restoration of devolution.

Speaking in the Dail, he said he had told Mrs May last week that his government could not accept a return of a pre-Good Friday Agreement form of direct rule.

The conference, which consists of ministers from both governments, met regularly from 2002 until 2007, when devolution was suspended.

The DUP has described the conference as a "talking shop".

Earlier, in an interview with the BBC, Mrs Foster accused Mr Varadkar as being "reckless" as Brexit talks entered a "critical phase".

Belfast Telegraph


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