Bitter exchanges between parties

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams and DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson held talks Tuesday in an attempt to defuse growing tensions between the two parties.

An Assembly committee this week failed to agree a timetable for such devolution, with Mr Adams and the DUP’s Nigel Dodds engaging in mutual recrimination over the issue.

The danger of the two parties using vetoes against each other -- thus paralysing the Assembly -- was a subject of discussions.

The Sinn Féin president warned of the DUP creating an unnecessary and artificial crisis. He reiterated that the devolution of justice powers was agreed in the St Andrews Agreement, while Mr Dodds denied that there was ever such a DUP commitment and that there would be no move on justice and policing “until the DUP says so”.

Mr Adams and other Sinn Féin politicians took particular offence at the insulting nature and tone of Mr Dodds’s remarks.

Mr Dodds said that “people will not be easily persuaded that these people [Sinn Féin] are fit to have any control in terms of policing and justice”.

Sinn Féin also described as offensive and gratuitous Mr Dodds’ additional comments that the DUP had consigned the Irish Language Act, also proposed in the St Andrews Agreement, “to the dustbin”.

The DUP were also reported to have made offensive comments recently about the Gaelic Athletics Association in connection with the proposed stadium at Long Kesh, the site of the Maze prison and the famous H-Block prison protest.

Unionists have recently threatened to abandon the project, which is expected to include a museum and peace centre, in favour of an alternative stadium site.

“I have to say that many people are offended, and with some justification with some of the utterances by some senior DUP figures,” said Mr Adams, who also warned that the power of veto was a “double-edged” sword, and that Sinn Féin equally could block DUP political business.

“I just think it’s time for people to calm down,” he added. “There are five or six big issues which are not going to go away that need to be resolved . . . My only concern is that some DUP people may lose the run of themselves and talk or insult everybody else, and talk the whole situation into a crisis, and that must be avoided,” he said.

A DUP official blamed Sinn Féin for escalating tensions through its attempt to hold a commemoration for SAS victim Mairéad Farrell at Stormont, and through a recent comment of Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness that he wished he could have killed every British soldier in Derry after the Bloody Sunday massacre.

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