Belfast Telegraph

Smaller Northern Ireland parties can't mask frustration as hopes turn to dust

By Suzanne Breen

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann last night called on Sinn Fein and the DUP to publish details of the accommodation they had reached.

"This talks process has ended in another shambles. This is what happens when you allow an exclusive two-party process to fester," he said.

"The DUP and Sinn Fein should now have no fear in publishing what they have agreed so far.

"Print it, publish it online, do it whatever way they want - but it is vitally important the people of Northern Ireland know what accommodation they did reach.

"It's time for openness and transparency and for both parties to let everyone know where they got to, outside a select few in the leadership of each party. It's time to front up. And if they won't do it, then the Government should print what it knows."

Mr Swann said the UUP was a devolutionist party but the people of Northern Ireland could no longer be "held to ransom" by those who didn't have their interests at heart.

"We have neither direct rule nor devolved government. That cannot continue. If we are at the stage where a budget has to be set again in Westminster, so be it," he added.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood expressed anger and disappointment at the DUP for pulling the plug on the talks.

"We have to get back to working together. We can't allow this moment to be the destruction of all that we have achieved," he said.

"We can't allow this British Government or this DUP to think they are going to govern Northern Ireland on their own. That cannot be allowed to happen.

"The spirit which underpins the Good Friday Agreement is one that recognises we have two communities here, two nationalities, two sets of allegiances and we have to have that recognised in anything that goes after this."

Alliance leader Naomi Long claimed Northern Ireland politics was in a "very precarious position at this point in time, essentially in uncharted territory".

She said: "We have now no prospect of a deal but also no process in place that could lead to a deal, nor do we have any indication of willingness by parties to continue any such process.

"It is now incumbent on the British and Irish Governments to come up with a way forward, because Northern Ireland has to be governed. But a switch to direct rule does nothing but aid the DUP. Alliance has repeatedly said from the start of this talks process that without a more structured approach, we would not see a successful outcome."

Mrs Long insisted that a deal to restore devolution "is, was and remains doable". She added: "The Government has a responsibility to take some kind of control - it is not right over 20 years of political investment should be squandered by a party which represents a minority of people across Northern Ireland."

TUV leader Jim Allister said the talks failure was unsurprising as Sinn Fein was never in Stormont to make Northern Ireland work. He welcomed the DUP facing "some measure of reality".

Mr Allister added: "However, they need to go further and accept that things can only move forward by fully accepting the demonstrated reality that mandatory coalition can and will never work. This system of devolution is doomed to constant deadlock and failure. Only a coalition of the willing stands any chance of success. If such is not attainable, then we need government from the only other place it can come from, Westminster."

Belfast Telegraph

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