Britain washes hands of Stormont stalemate

The British government has said it will not put pressure on the DUP to end the political stalemate in the North of Ireland.

British Direct Ruler Shaun Woodward said it was up to both Sinn Fein and the DUP to solve the deadlock over policing and justice powers.

He said both the London and Dublin governments would help broker a deal to transfer the powers to the Stormont administration in Belfast, but said it ultimately rested with the two parties to find agreement.

“We believe the political parties both want to do this, it’s a question of providing as much help as we can with the framework but ultimately this must be a matter for them,” Mr Woodward said.

On Monday Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness claimed more than a billion pounds of British funding for the move was under threat if there was no cross-party agreement.

Sinn Fein has warned that any further delays would render the power-sharing administration unsustainable -- a claim dismissed by unionist hardliners as a bluff.

Woodward also ruled out suspending the Stormont Assembly despite the deadlock, now in its third year. He said after the 2006 St Andrews Agreement, he did not have the power to do so and was not considering creating the power.

Mr Woodward and 26-County Foreign Minister Micheal Martin discussed the situation in Dublin but played down the possibility of a new round of “hothouse” talks to deal with the stalemate.

Meanwhile, Mr McGuinness again railed against republican opponents of the north’s political process. He said dissidents were “very foolish” and “making a huge mistake”.

Mr McGuinness was asked at Stormont whether he believed that supporters of the Provisional IRA now dissatisfied with Sinn Fein’s political process were advising and supporting dissident groups.

“I have heard that asserted in the course of the last number of weeks,” Mr McGuinness said.

“Obviously, I don’t have any first-hand information whether or not that is the case.

“But if there are people who were previously involved with or supporters of the IRA, I think they are very foolish to become embroiled with factions or groups that have no support whatsoever within the community -- people who are acting against the interests of the people of the island of Ireland.”

Mr McGuinness said the overwhelming majority of the Irish people had voted for the Good Friday Agreement, the 1998 predecessor of the St Andrew’s Agreement.

“So these dissidents are totally and absolutely out of step,” he said.

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