Sinn Féin frustration at talks without talks
Sinn Féin frustration at talks without talks

Talks to resolve the policing and justice dispute between the DUP and Sinn Féin have broken down once again.

A statement on Wednesday from the DUP’s Maurice Morrow that devolution of policing and justice would not take place in the life time of this Assembly appeared to confirm the party’s decision to renege on the St Andrew’s Agreement.

A statement from Sinn Féin said that they wanted to get the matter solved to make progress but that they but they are very worried by Morrow’s statement.

A Sinn Féin spokesman said there had been no movement from the DUP on setting a date for transferring security powers from London to Belfast despite the party assembling its team of negotiators.

They also said the negotiating team had been established in the expectation of a serious session and had informed the DUP that members were willing to stay late tonight and return tomorrow to take part in the negotiations.

The political process has been overshadowed over the holidays by revelations that DUP leader Peter Robinson’s wife had an affair as well as Gerry Adams’s admissions over the history of sexual abuse in his family.

The Sinn Féin representative said: “No progress has been made. These issues are not Sinn Féin issues, they are part of the St Andrews Agreement, the DUP signed up to this agreement, the two governments (British and Irish) are obliged to act as guarantors,” he said.

In a new year statement earlier, West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty said it was “decision time” for Sinn Féin’s partners in the executive and warned that failure to work together would make Stormont unsustainable.

Mr Doherty accused the DUP of defaulting on its commitments to the St Andrews Agreement, which envisaged the transfer of policing and justice powers from Westminster to Stormont.

“The DUP is engaging in short-term political expediency and not political reality,” he said.

“Without partnership and equality the political institutions are not sustainable.

“Sinn Féin has been patient, very, very patient but it is now decision time for the DUP.”

Sinn Féin deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who set a Christmas deadline for agreement last November, is to brief senior party officials about the ongoing stalemate this weekend.

Talks were also held earlier this week between the London and Dublin governments at Hillsborough Castle when British Direct Ruler Shaun Woodward met 26-County foreign minister Micheal Martin.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Woodward said both governments were “absolutely confident” the DUP and Sinn Féin could overcome the current difficulties.

In an unusually sharp response, Gerry Adams described Woodward’s remarks as “banal and silly”.

“Shaun Woodward’s tenure here has been characterised by endlessly banal sound bites without substance. He knows the difficulties in the political process are not ‘difficulties between the DUP and SF’. They are a result of the failure of the DUP to fulfil its obligations under the terms of the Good Friday and the St Andrew’s Agreements.

“These Agreements are also accords between the British and Irish governments. It is disingenuous to pass the buck for the failure to implement agreements to Sinn Féin. Sinn Féin is prepared to work through issues with the DUP and Martin McGuinness has shown remarkable leadership and patience in this endeavour.

“Continued failure by the British government to face up to its responsibilities is unacceptable. No amount of waffle by Shaun Woodward can disguise this. The governments should be acting on their responsibilities.

“The two governments have a duty to act as guarantors of the St Andrew’s Agreement. I told Mr Woodward this yesterday. Martin McGuinness and I also urged the Taoiseach to meet with Gordon Brown on these matters”.

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