Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness has accused two parties within the struggling Stormont Executive of trying to cut his party out of the Six-County administration.
The deputy First Minister claims the Ulster Unionist Party and the rival nationalist SDLP of quietly lobbying the British government for special funding to set themselves up in opposition to a DUP/Sinn Fein coalition.
But he also attacked plans for a ‘voluntary coalition’, which would allow the ouster of Sinn Fein -- currently entitled to three ministers, as well as McGuinness’s own position, as the largest nationalist party.
“Let’s call it for what it is,” said Mr McGuinness.
“They can dress it up in whatever way they like, whatever fancy words they like. But when people call for voluntary coalition, they’re calling for the exclusion of an Irish republican party which overwhelmingly represents the views of the vast majority of nationalists and republicans in the north,” he said.
“And that is not going to happen and we are not going to tolerate it or stand for it.”
According to Mr McGuinness, the approach he and DUP leader Peter Robinson have taken towards power-sharing has been “hampered” by the UUP and SDLP.
“We now have a situation where those parties are trying to blame the DUP and Sinn Féin for the cuts that have come from London,” he added. “And of course the Ulster Unionist Party and the SDLP have brass necks in trying to blame our parties for that.”
It comes after a war of words between the deputy first minister and the health minister, largely over the budget.
Last week, Mr McGuinness branded Michael McGimpsey “a semi-detached member of these institutions” - while Mr McGimpsey declared Stormont to be “a dysfunctional Executive”.
Me McGuinness accused both the UUP and SDLP of lobbying the British government for money for their parties at a time when others were seeking to find funds to offset the worst of the “Tory cuts” being implemented across the North.
“Peter Robinson and myself have been relentless in seeking the British government honour their agreements and reinstate our budget entitlements,” he said.
“While doing this I was disappointed to learn that both the UUP and SDLP were lobbying for public money for their parties in talks with the British government in exchange for adopting an oppositional role in the Assembly. At a time when frontline services are under attack, the priority of the UUP and SDLP has been to use their influence with the Tory government to try and extract money for their party coffers.”