DUP in ‘turmoil’ as talks continue
DUP in ‘turmoil’ as talks continue

The DUP leader Peter Robinson is understood to be struggling to convince his party to back a deal over the devolution of policing and justice and parades.

DUP and Sinn Fein negotiators have arrived at Hillsborough Castle where talks are continuing on day eight of the negotiations.

Waves of rumours circulated all day yesterday that a deal had been secured, and that the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and 26-County Taoiseach Brian Cowen were set to fly in to Belfast to announce what some journalists had already dubbed ‘the St Brigid’s Day Agreement’.

On Monday night, however, Mr Robinson emerged from a meeting with his party to say that he was not yet ready to sign-up.

“The (party) group has identified, because the negotiations have not been completed, some issues that have to be resolved and items about which they need to be satisfied,” he said.

Journalist Eamonn Mallie reported dramatic events at a meeting of the DUP Assembly group last night.

“I understand there were resignations bouncing up on the table. Turmoil, absolute turmoil in the party. Unbelievably scenes. Hot is how it was describe to me”, Mr Mallie said about the Stormont meeting.

The DUP negotiators then left Stormont to return to Hillsborough to continue talks with Sinn Fein and the British and Irish governments. The discussions again went on late into the night.

Peter Robinson however insisted his party wanted to see the Six-County political institutions work. “The process is one that we have committed ourselves to as a political party,” he said on Monday night.

Unionist hardliners took aim at any possible deal with Sinn Fein.

Speaking today on Irish radio, Jim Allister of the extreme ‘Traditional Unionist Voice’ party said said: “It’s vital for the interests of Northern Ireland that policing and justice is not involved to an executive in which IRA/Sinn Fein hold the sway of veto.

“I hope there are yet within the DUP enough people of conscience and backbone to say no to the blandishments of this deal,” he added.

“The right to vote a party out of government, the right to have an opposition - is that too much for anyone in the 21st century to ask? I think not, and yet those are the two seminal democratic rights . . . the people of Northern Ireland . . . are denied. That is not a basis on which government can be sustained.”

There was also disarray within the Ulster Unionist Party over the party leadership’s attempts to secure a pact with their main unionist rivals, the DUP. The resignation of the party’s head of communications has been followed today by an anonymous email which claimed that “a small cabal at the head of our party led by the current Chairman and Treasurer.. are conspiring with a handful of maverick individual Assembly members to deliver our party into the hands of our rivals, the DUP.”

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein has continued to insist that an agreement is within reach.

“We are confident we can make the deal,” said Gerry Kelly.

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