New SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has launched a stinging attack on Sinn Fein over their 'Fresh Start' deal with the DUP to save Stormont.
n his first extended response to last week's agreement, the man who replaced Alasdair McDonnell said his main electoral rivals should be "ashamed" over their "complete capitulation" in handing welfare reform back to Westminster.
Writing exclusively for the Belfast Telegraph today, he argued it was the first instance of republicans handing back hard-won powers to the British Government.
"Much of that deal has now been proven to be so transparently awful that Sinn Fein's chief negotiators are finding it difficult to hide their shame. And ashamed they should be," he said.
The Foyle MLA, just two weeks into office, also revealed that behind the scenes his party submitted seven papers to the 10-week negotiations which resulted in 'Fresh Start', while Sinn Fein did not present any.
Opening up the battleground between the two main nationalist parties for the next Assembly election in May, he hit out: "That inability to put in the hard yards of policy development has led to Sinn Fein being sold this pup of a deal."
In his central theme, Mr Eastwood said that Sinn Fein's claim to be the "best negotiators" in the land had come to an end.
"After promising for two years that they'd stand up to the Tories and fight the good fight, they've not only completely capitulated on their promises, they've surrendered their responsibilities.
"Worst of all, their negotiators walked away from dealing with the past."
After forming an extensive part of last year's Stormont House Agreement, so-called legacy issues are missing from Fresh Start.
Mr Eastwood called for the publication of proposed legislation which he said Sinn Fein rejected because of Government strictures on 'national security'.
"After swearing they'd never abandon victims and survivors, it is telling they have not called for the British Government to publish the Bill. We have," he said.
There was no immediate comeback from Sinn Fein yesterday, but a spokesman said a statement was being formulated and may be issued over the weekend.