Belfast Telegraph

Watch: No urgency from DUP and agreement unlikely in short term, says Sinn Fein

DUP slams Sinn Fein's 'narrow focus' at expense of broader issues

By Jonathan Bell

Sinn Fein has said there will be no chance of a deal on restoring power sharing in the short term claiming there has not been the urgency from the DUP to find agreement.

The republican party's talks negotiator Conor Murphy said he was expecting a "holding statement" from the Secretary of State in his address on Monday afternoon in the House of Commons.

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Speaking at Stormont, the MLA said: "The DUP have yet to address equality and rights issues that have caused the institutions to go down in first place.

"We are 19 years on from the Good Friday Agreement and 10 on from the St Andrews Agreement, the DUP still are blocking Acht na Gaeilge, bill of rights, marriage equality, legacy issues, respect issues in the Asembly.

"The institutions if they are to be reformed have to be based on respect and equality. That was the basis of reform in the first place and the only way they can survive."

Sinn Fein press conference at Stormont.

Posted by Belfast Telegraph on Monday, July 3, 2017

He added: "We don't see urgency from the DUP and it is unlikely there will be a deal in the short term. We are mandated by the people that voted for us to be here and work with other parties if there is a chance of success.

"In this position we have to break because the atmosphere is too hostile for talks. We have been prepared since the Assembly election to get matters resolved. Now we are coming up to the Twelfth of July and the atmosphere is so hostile the DUP will not move on any issue.

"It is as frustrating for us as it is for you, but the reality is the issues I have outlined need to to be fixed before institutions can be resolved."

DUP response

Speaking at Stormont on Monday afternoon, DUP leader Arlene Foster pointed the finger of blame firmly at Sinn Fein.

She repeatedly referred to Sinn Fein's insistence on a single Irish lanaguage act as a "narrow issue" and said the DUP is focused on the broader issues of health, education and community funding.

The restoration of the NI Assembly "must be done on a fair and proportionate basis" and "in a way which makes sure that everyone here in Northern Ireland feels the benefit of a shared society, not one community feeling as if they have been shortchanged," Mrs Foster continued.

"We will keep saying to them that we feel the priorities should be around health, education and making sure that we have the budgets to deal with all of those issues.

"The onus is really on Sinn Fein now as to whether they want to continue with this political grandstanding or whether they want to get back to doing the job that we need to do. 

"I think it is long past the time when we should be back in government."

Addressing the Irish language issue, she stated: "I have a great deal of respect for those people who love the Irish language, who want to use it in their everyday lives. I just get the sense from the way in Sinn Fein are approaching all of this, around legislation for those who want to use the Irish language, that it has become more of a political way of dealing with the matter instead of looking at the real issues that are there for those Irish language speakers.

"I do respect those people who love the language and who want to use it in their everyday lives. I think it's no secret now, we're prepared to deal with those people now in a way that I think they would have been satisfied with. However, that's not enough for Sinn Fein.

"I was quite amazed to hear them say today that the DUP did not want to have rights for Irish language speakers. That's just not true."

Despite the current impasse, Mrs Foster doesn't believe "this process is at an end".

She elaborated: "It's a case of making sure that those who we represent also feel valued in Northern Ireland. What we can't see is one section of the community having cultural supremacy over the other members of the community in which they live.

"What we wanted to see was that everyone would be respected and that there would be mutual respect across Northern Ireland.

"It's regrettable that Sinn Fein does not want to enter into that sort of dialogue.

"I actually believe there are many Catholics, nationalists and republicans who would like to see us back in government again dealing with the issues that affect them, in relation to health waiting lists, education, and all those community groups that will soon have to make people redundant.

"I'm sure they would very much like to see us back in government instead of dealing with a very narrow political issue which could be solved.

"The onus is on Sinn Fein: either they can lead us into another election or they can lead us inexorably towards direct rule and they know the consequences of that."

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