Belfast Telegraph

Varadkar accuses Adams of giving up on deal to save Stormont powersharing

The Taoiseach has accused Gerry Adams of giving up on a deal to save Stormont and trying to push the blame for its failure on to others.

Leo Varadkar was responding after the Sinn Fein president accused the Irish government of engaging in "untruthful, malicious and shameful" press briefings to undermine his party colleague Michelle O'Neill.

The row on the floor of the Dail was the latest in a series of acrimonious spats involving Mr Varadkar and Sinn Fein leadership figures.

It unfolded during leaders' questions when Mr Adams challenged Mr Varadkar on recent press reports that claimed, quoting Irish government sources, that Sinn Fein Stormont leader Mrs O'Neill was prepared to strike a deal to restore powersharing with the Democratic Unionists but was overruled by senior figures within her own party.

Sinn Fein has vehemently rejected the claim.

During his remarks in the Dail, Mr Adams also criticised the UK government for "indulging" what he called "stubborn elements within political unionism", which he blamed for obstructing an agreement.

Mr Varadkar said he had no knowledge or interest in "disagreements or rivalries" that may exist within Sinn Fein.

He then accused Mr Adams of "setting the scene to ensure somebody else gets the blame for the failure to come to an agreement in Northern Ireland".

"You spoke about stubborn elements within political unionism - that's not a good way to talk about people you are trying to make an agreement with at the moment," the Fine Gael leader said.

"'Stubborn elements in political unionism', and then you attack the Irish government and then you attack the British government.

"This doesn't sound to me like the languages of somebody who is trying to lead their party into an agreement with unionists, into co-operation with the British and Irish governments.

"This sounds to me like somebody who has already given up and is already trying to spread the blame to others."

Mr Adams insisted he would "never give up". He accused the Taoiseach of offering "glib answers".

"These briefings on the part of your government were untruthful, malicious and shameful," he said.

The veteran republican added: "Why would you want to undermine Michelle O'Neill? Over 70% of nationalists in the north voted for the party she led, do you think these citizens don't read your remarks?"

Mr Varadkar said he was not going to "account for government briefings".

"I have no difficulty in speaking for myself," he said.

"I think anyone in this house knows that I am somebody who speaks my mind and I don't mince my words, so I don't need to operate through government briefings and I am not going to account for government briefings anymore than I would expect Deputy Adams to account for Sinn Fein briefings or unattributed sources in newspapers".

With less than a week to go before the latest deadline in the powersharing crisis, Sinn Fein and the DUP remain at loggerheads over key issues, such as proposed laws to protect Irish language speakers.

The clock is ticking towards October 30, when the UK government effectively needs to decide whether it has to take a major step toward the re-imposition of direct rule and intervene to set a budget for the region's rudderless public services.

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