Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein's O'Neill denies she was overruled on deal with DUP as Foster says she is 'determined to try to achieve agreement'

  • Michelle O'Neill: "We are quickly running out of road"
  • Arlene Foster: "Northern Ireland needs government and if that cannot be achieved at Stormont then Westminster will be required to provide it.”

By Jonathan Bell

Michelle O'Neill has denied reports she was overruled on a deal with the DUP by senior members of Sinn Fein.

The party's leader in Northern Ireland also described Secretary of State James Brokenshire's announcement of a deadline for the party talks as "unhelpful".

"It has been our consistent resolve to get these institutions restored to be delivering for all citizens," she told the Press on Wednesday at Stormont.

"As I said last Thursday, considerable challenges remain and one way or another these negotiations will come to an end. We are obviously very hopeful we can get a positive resolution.... that is the Sinn Fein position.

"Clearly we are quickly running out of road."

She added: "I think James Brokenshire's announcement on the budget is not helpful in that it clearly signifies the end of this phase of negotiation."

Michelle O'Neill also denied an Irish Times report she had agreed a deal with the DUP but was overruled by senior party figures.

Addressing DUP members and supporters in Co Tyrone on Monday night, party leader Arlene Foster said she was "determined to try to achieve an agreement that can be supported by unionists and nationalists".

"Nowhere is this more important than in the area of how we deal with cultural identity and associated languages", she added.

Mrs Foster said "solid progress has been made in some areas", but "differences do remain and hurdles have yet to be overcome".

She added: "If Sinn Fein is unable or unwilling to enter an Executive on a sensible basis then it will be imperative on the Secretary of State to bring forward a budget for the wider good governance of Northern Ireland."

Northern Ireland needs government and if that cannot be achieved at Stormont then Westminster will be required to provide it. DUP leader Arlene Foster

Earlier the SDLP said the logjam between the DUP and Sinn Fein had "brought us to the brink of direct rule".

Colum Eastwood said: “It appears they have used their big mandates to achieve one thing – bringing British Direct Rule to Northern Ireland.

“While crises engulf our health services and our schools, they have talked for month after month and have only delivered failure.  

"In particular for the nationalist community, after years of trying to bring power back to Irish soil in order that local people could make local decisions, it should be a source of great anger that all of that power and progress is now being handed back to a Tory/DUP government in London.

“Talk of a slow ‘glide path’ towards more British Government involvement in the north should fool no-one. A British Government delivering a budget in Westminster is direct rule. It cannot be painted or presented in any other way.

He added: “Both traditions must be represented in the politics of the North - that is the basis of all our political agreements.

“In the absence of an Executive and Assembly, giving full and proper representation to those traditions falls on both the Irish and British Governments.”

Alliance's Stephen Farry said the core issues of the dispute between Sinn Fein and the DUP had not been addressed.

"It beggars belief that the DUP and Sinn Fein are put this matter of Irish language and culture on such a pedestal that they have lost a sense of proportion and perspective on the wider need to provide good governance to Northern Ireland, to reform out public services, invest in our economy, and to have a proper Brexit plan," he said.

"Any return to direct rule would constitute a massive reversal in our political process. Given the nature of Northern Ireland, we need power-sharing and local accountability in our governance.

"If there is still time to avoid this, then the governments urgently need to change the dynamics in the negotiations. This involves moving from a closed DUP-Sinn Fein format towards a more multilateral process, bringing in an external mediator, and making clear that other approaches to the formation of power-sharing government will be considered."

 

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