Belfast Telegraph

We'll stop 'Sinn Fein jackboot', says DUP's Sammy Wilson

By Noel McAdam

Sinn Fein has been told to stop "jack-booting" its way through negotiations to restore Stormont.

Ahead of the first day of anticipated inter-party negotiations today, East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson pledged his party would put a halt to Sinn Fein's demands.

"We cannot change this election result, but we can stop Sinn Fein jack-booting its way through these talks and will do so," Mr Wilson vowed.

As talks between the five main parties and Secretary of State James Brokenshire continued yesterday, it was confirmed Irish Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan would join negotiations today after returning from abroad.

After his second meeting - which Sinn Fein said was "relatively short" - in two days with Mr Brokenshire, Gerry Adams repeated his warning that Westminster was in danger of repeating the mistakes of the past and failing to implement agreements.

One issue raised was Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan's request for money to be set aside for legacy inquests, with some families waiting for more than 40 years for answers.

Mr Adams said: "Yesterday he (Mr Brokenshire) said he would reflect on that, and it was clear that if he had reflected he had come to no good conclusion."

Sinn Fein Stormont leader Michelle O'Neill, meanwhile, accused Mr Brokenshire of "waffle".

"We needed a fundamental change in approach from the British Government - we made that very clear to James Brokenshire today," she said.

"All he did was waffle, waffle and more waffle in relation to how we are going to go forward and give families what they need, which is access to due process as per the request of the Lord Chief Justice.

"We called the meeting to an end because we had more waffle. We called the meeting short and asked him to go and reflect on that."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, however, said the "mood music" around the talks was better than during the election campaign.

Meanwhile, DUP MLAs cheered yesterday as they appeared en masse in the Great Hall at Parliament Buildings following a party meeting.

Arlene Foster said she was delighted with the backing she had received.

"We had a full and open discussion around the campaign and I am delighted with the support I have had from all my colleagues," she added.

Mrs Foster also stressed that she was looking forward to going into the negotiations to "get a good deal, not just for unionism but for all the people of Northern Ireland".

"We are focused on the restoration of devolution and making sure that we have that stability for the people of Northern Ireland," she said.

Mr Brokenshire, in a brief statement, said he was "just getting on with the talks and discussions".

One potential early roadblock was avoided yesterday when it was announced that MLAs at next Monday's initial Assembly meeting would not attempt to elect a Speaker.

Instead, that has been put back until Monday March 27 - the same day the parties are expected to try and appoint ministers to a new Executive.

There has been no agreement between Sinn Fein and the DUP over who might take up the Speaker's role and so far no names have been mentioned.

The former Speaker, Robin Newton of the DUP, ended the term in controversy when he gave the go-ahead to then First Minister Arlene Foster to make a statement on the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme even though then Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness had withdrawn permission for her to do so.

TUV leader Jim Allister said Assembly rules were being "bent" by the postponement, which was agreed at a meeting of party chief whips.

Green Party MLA Steven Agnew called for patience on all sides during the negotiations, which are expected to be tough.

"Parties should be given as much time as possible to find a way forward and thrash out the issues that have blighted the relationship between the traditional parties," he said.

"I think the mood has been businesslike - there is a sense of the urgency of what is at hand here and getting back into devolved government at the earliest possible opportunity."

Belfast Telegraph

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