Belfast Telegraph

Stormont talks 'go-slow' sparks new row

War of words erupts over wind-down for Twelfth

Sinn Fein MLAs Caoimhe Archibald and Conor Murphy yesterday
Sinn Fein MLAs Caoimhe Archibald and Conor Murphy yesterday
DUP MP Gavin Robinson
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

The DUP has accused the Sinn Fein leadership of being directionless at the Stormont talks to restore power-sharing.

The party was responding to a claim from Sinn Fein that the negotiations had gone into "go-slow" mode ahead of the marching season.

But the DUP accused the republican party of using the Twelfth as cover for its own lack of engagement.

The war of words between the two parties appears to be public recognition that there will be no deal to restore devolution this summer.

Hitting out yesterday at the pace of the talks, Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy said it was "long past time" when the marching season should impact on negotiations.

He said he was frustrated that the dialogue had been put into a "go-slow" and he called on the British and Irish Governments to "work towards finding a credible resolution to the outstanding issues".

Mr Murphy said: "We have been working in this latest phase of talks for the last nine weeks to get a resolution to the outstanding issues and end the denial of rights which citizens can access everywhere else in these islands.

"Sinn Fein shares the frustration of the wider public and other parties that this negotiation has not been concluded as quickly as possible.

"It is our assessment that progress has been stalled and that nothing will happen for the next two weeks. It is long past the time that politics here is closed down to facilitate people marching on July 12th."

"The Governments convened the current talks process and as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement they have a responsibility to ensure that we get credible, sustainable institutions up and running that treat all citizens equally."

The Sinn Fein chief negotiator added: "We need to continue to address with a sense of urgency all of the issues in front of us and get this institution up and running again.

"There is no clear political water... there is no better window coming, there is continued uncertainty in relation to Brexit.

"There is uncertainty in relation to the British Government itself and the instability and dysfunctionality which is going on there.

"There is uncertainty in relation to RHI (Renewable Heat Incentive Inquiry) and all the other issues."

But DUP MP Gavin Robinson claimed it was "totally inaccurate" for Sinn Fein "to use the Twelfth of July as cover for their lack of engagement this week".

He said: "Sinn Fein failed to provide any negotiators either yesterday or today.

"The truth is that Sinn Fein is clearly in a dilemma internally. They are seeking to use the Twelfth of July to cover their own leadership's inability to decide what direction to move.

"Rather than throw out excuses for not turning up at the talks, it is high time that Michelle O'Neill and her team recognise the chaos that their blockade of devolution is causing in our hospitals, schools and core public services."

Mr Robinson continued: "It's time Sinn Fein stop making excuses, step up to the table and earnestly work for an agreement which is fair, balanced and genuinely helps our society become the shared place it can be. 

"The DUP wants the institutions to be restored immediately and for the talks to take place in parallel. 

"Over recent days, it would seem that Sinn Fein neither want to engage in talks nor restore the institutions."

Secretary of State Karen Bradley earlier told the House of Commons that she intends to return to Belfast for meetings as part of the talks process.

The latest round of negotiations began nine weeks ago. They were announced by the two governments after the New IRA killing of journalist Lyra McKee.

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