Irish Republican News · November 29, 2014
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Stormont talks in the toilet?
Stormont talks in the toilet?

gregorycampellyoghurt.jpg

In a stinging blow to the multi-party talks underway at Stormont, DUP hardliner Gregory Campbell has told Sinn Fein his party “will treat their entire wish list as no more than toilet paper.”

Mr Campbell, who recently mocked the phrase ‘Go raibh maith agat’, Irish for ‘thank you’, in the Six-County Assembly as “curry my yogurt”, also told Sinn Fein it will never get an Irish language act.

After laughingly waving a tub of yoghurt at delegates, Mr Campell told the DUP annual conference that Sinn Fein wanted to “lull” unionists into agreeing to “costly projects” such as a bill of rights, and “their long demanded Irish language Act”.

“On behalf of our party let me say clearly, and slowly so that Caitriona Ruane and Gerry Adams understand, we will never agree to an Irish language act at Stormont and we will treat their entire wish list as no more than toilet paper. They better get used to it,” he said.

Mr Campbell also claimed Sinn Fein’s united Ireland project was “in tatters” and “their dream of a 2016 united Ireland is now nothing short of an embarrassment”.

Sinn Fein’s John O’Dowd said the integrity and commitment of the DUP to the current talks process had been called into question by Campbell’s speech.

“Gregory Campbell is clearly dismissing the hopes, aspirations and negotiating rights of almost one half of our people in these talks,” he said, referring to the Six County population. “While we have come to expect such outbursts from Mr Campbell this tirade appears to have been delivered on behalf of his party.”

Hopes for progress at the talks appeared to fade further after a controversy over remarks made by Gerry Adams in Fermanagh.

Mr Adams was speaking as part of a Sinn Fein’s “leaders tour” of meetings across the Six Counties when he referred to Campbell’s latest comments.

“There are people who don’t want the nonsense that Gregory Campbell spouts... the bigotry,” Mr Adams said. “But what’s the point? The point is to actually break these b*stards - that’s the point. And what’s going to break them is equality. That’s what’s going to break them -- equality.

“Who could be afraid of equality? Who could be afraid of treating somebody the way you want to be treated? That’s what we need to keep the focus on... that’s the Trojan horse of the entire republican strategy.”

‘BIGOTS’

He later told BBC radio he was “sorry for using the b-word” and acknowledged it was offensive. He said he wasn’t talking about unionists, as some had claimed

“I was talking about bigots,” he said. “I was responding to a question, which was about what’s the point in republicans trying to do business when there’s a cadre or a cohort who clearly are against the type of changes that are contained in the various agreements that the political parties have signed up for.”

Mr Adams also said he partly regretted using the term “Trojan horse” in relation to Sinn Fein’s equality strategy.

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt described Mr Adams’s comments as “shocking to the point of nausea”.

“On a day I began by criticising the DUP’s Gregory Campbell for his gratuitous insult to those who cherish the Irish language, I despair that I have to end it by challenging Gerry Adams to clarify why he believes equality is no more than a trick to lure unionists into some sort of trap,” he said.

‘BOLLOCKS’

Sinn Fein MP Michelle Gildernew was also in hot water after branding Gregory Campbell “a bollocks” at the same meeting. However, she said she stood over her remarks.

“I directed my remarks towards Gregory and I’m not withdrawing them,” she said. “Certainly, from the messages that I received today, people are glad that I articulated the frustration that hundreds and hundreds and thousands of people are feeling at the casual insulting of the Irish language and the expression of Irish cultural identity.”

Ms Gildernew said people were fed up with the way “elements within the DUP” continued to tolerate jibes against the Irish language.

But her remarks were seized on by the DUP, who claimed it was a sign of Sinn Fein panic. Deputy leader Nigel Dodds said senior Sinn Fein members had “let the mask slip” twice in the same meeting.

“Regardless of whether or not it drives SF to swearing, we will continue to promote the benefits of the Union and the existence of Northern Ireland. No republican tactic will break us,” he said. “The swearing from Sinn Fein representatives demonstrates Gerry’s promise of delivering a united Ireland by 2016 has been frustrated by the DUP and lies in tatters. Their strategy has failed.”

‘TURNING POINT’

While prospects for the Stormont talks appear dire, political commentators have played down the row, with both Sinn Fein and the DUP having a vested interest in keeping the Assembly operational. There have even been suggestions the exchanges have been magnified to deflect attention from a growing expenses scandal at at Stormont, where both parties have been accused of channelling public funds to party insiders.

British Direct Ruler Theresa Villiers, who is chairing the discussions, said on Tuesday the chances of a deal looked “slim”. However, she had changed her tune following talks on Wednesday, which she described as a “turning point”.

Ms Villiers said: “Obviously my assessments earlier in the week were extremely downbeat.

“I think they are the sort of comments perhaps the Northern Ireland media isn’t used to hearing from me or previous secretaries of state. I think it was genuinely a turning point this week. I think the parties were very clear that they wanted this process to succeed.”

Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness said failure was not an option in the talks.

“These talks have placed a very onerous responsibility on all of us to deal with the challenges we face, and the challenges are huge,” he said.

US envoy Gary Hart, who returns to Belfast on Monday, also remained determined. “There is not going to be failure... the talks are going to succeed and we in the United States are going to do everything we can to ensure that they succeed and that they continue to be successful throughout 2015 and beyond,” he said.

© 2014 Irish Republican News