DUP's Foster slams 'scaremongering' rival unionists as talks reach crucial stage
DUP leader Arlene Foster has hit out at rival unionists for "scaremongering" as the talks head towards a crunch weekend.
A Westminster debate on emergency Northern Ireland legislation could be held on Monday.
If a resolution is found over the weekend, MPs could provide for restored devolution at Stormont, but Secretary of State James Brokenshire has said clear differences remain between the parties.
Last night Mrs Foster said the DUP would "continue to work towards resolving the outstanding issues" but lashed out at other unionists for their "predictions of doom".
- SDLP's Patsy McGlone favourite to replace Robin Newton as Speaker... if Assembly restored
- Suzanne Breen becomes Belfast Telegraph's new political editor
"I am disappointed by some comments from fellow unionists who are not involved in the talks," she said. "They should cease from their scaremongering. I well recall the shameful way some tried to frighten people when we were negotiating the return of justice powers to Stormont.
"Their predictions of doom were proved false back then. Unionists know the DUP will stand up for the Union and the identity we all cherish. Those who peddle scare stories are doing the work of those who oppose the Union.
"The DUP will always do what is in the best interests of Northern Ireland and we will stand strong for the people of Northern Ireland as we seek agreement that both unionists and nationalists can support."
Mr Brokenshire has repeatedly warned he will pass a budget to run public services if political negotiators cannot find agreement.
He said: "I want to be in a position to legislate to form an Executive as soon as possible but to do so I would need to be satisfied that there is agreement between the parties.
"Whilst this remains possible, and some progress has been made, clear differences still remain between the parties and agreement has yet to be found. If this cannot be resolved quickly, I will need to legislate for a budget for Northern Ireland by the end of this month and consider next steps."
The Government has made parliamentary time available to reinstate Stormont power-sharing next week should a deal be clinched.
The Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom said she was "hopeful" of good news.
However, Sinn Fein Stormont leader Michelle O'Neill appeared to play down speculation that a deal was imminent.
"There are still very real challenges to be addressed if we are to achieve the restoration of the political institutions on the basis they deliver for all," she said.
"We have been engaged over recent days in intensive talks to get the political institutions up and running with equality, respect and integrity at their core."