DUP boycotts talks
DUP boycotts talks

Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party boycotted a talks-about-talks process hosted by the British and Irish governments at Hillsbrorough Castle on Monday.

The party described them as a sham “to present the idea of some sort of process under way”.

Referring to the party’s recent dossier of demands, MP Nigel Dodds said both governments were aware of the party’s position on the issues and “know what is needed to create unionist confidence”.

“What we’re about is the real business of meeting with government ministers from Tony Blair and Peter Hain down, on a regular basis,” said the party’s Nigel Dodds.

Dublin’s Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern and British Direct Ruler Peter Hain played down the DUP’s absence at Hillsborough Castle today, and pointed to the forthcoming bilateral talks.

Among the issues said to be under discussion on Monday were parades, policing and restorative justice.

Mr Ahern and Mr Hain had invited the DUP, Sinn Féin and the PUP to separate talks today as part of a series of “stock-taking” meetings with the main players in the peace process.

Mr Hain said it was the DUP’s own business whether it attended or not and he and Mr Ahern were relaxed about the party’s snub.

News of the DUP’s refusal to take part came just hours after Sinn Féin accused the unionist party of failing to show “real political leadership”.

Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness yesterday said the DUP had blocked a return to devolution for far too long.

Speaking at a republican commemoration in Edentubber, County Louth, Mr McGuinness challenged DUP leader Ian Paisley to “come clean” over his attitude to re-entering the power sharing institutions.

He said that last year, the two governments made it clear to Sinn Féin that Ian Paisley had indicated to them that the only obstacle to a return to the power sharing institutions was the issue of arms.

“The IRA have decisively dealt with that issue,” said Mr McGuinness. “It is no longer an issue for the process. Is Ian Paisley now going to step up to the mark? Is Ian Paisley going to follow through on what he said to the two governments last year?

“ The DUP have sat back for too long. We need to get the political institutions back up and running. Week by week the Direct Rule Administration is taking decisions based not on the needs or requirements of the people but on fiscal considerations in the British Treasury.

“Are the DUP content to sit back and watch this happen or are they finally going to stop hiding behind rhetoric and show real political leadership.”

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin have launched a campaign which aims to raise awareness of the impact direct rule has had.

The Cost of Direct Rule campaign is centred on the social and economic factors which have suffered since devolution was suspended in October 2002.

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