Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness hits out at 'silly' UUP claim deal could unravel

By David Young

An Ulster Unionist warning that the latest political deal was in danger of unravelling has been dismissed by the Deputy First Minister as "silly".

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness rejected claims from UUP leader Mike Nesbitt that some parties were trying to renegotiate parts of the accord and said the implementation of the agreement was well on track. Mr McGuinness and Mr Nesbitt joined the leaders of the other three Executive parties at Stormont yesterday for talks with Secretary of State Theresa Villiers and Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan about how and when the proposals they agreed in December will be actioned.

The deal includes measures that addressed a budgetary crisis; will see the implementation of the UK Government's welfare reforms; and the establishment of new mechanisms to deal with the toxic legacy of the past.

Mr Nesbitt reiterated his concerns that others were trying to renegotiate elements of the deal as he emerged from the meeting.

"There is concern that it will unravel if people use this process to renegotiate rather than bring on what was agreed," he said. "So if we are going to implement, we implement what was agreed in December - we don't try to get bits that we failed to get in last year and try to sneak them in this time around."

But Mr McGuinness accused Mr Nesbitt of "politicking".

"I think we all have to approach this in a positive spirit, a constructive spirit, showing real leadership and I think, in terms of how we move forward, unfortunate terms such as the prospect of 'unravelling' do not sit well with the progress we have made over the course of recent times," he said.

"I think that was a particularly silly comment to make given the fact that all of the meetings so far have been very positive, they have been very inclusive." He added: "I haven't seen any attempt by any of the parties thus far to renegotiate the agreement that has been made and I think to make that remark in advance of a meeting, which was a very positive and constructive meeting, probably has more to do with politicking than anything else and I am going to rise above all of that."

Ms Villiers described the implementation meeting as "remarkably positive and cheerful".

"I think the Stormont House Agreement is a significant step forward for Northern Ireland and, of course, the key challenge now is getting it up and running."

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