DUP MP suggests ‘poodle’ Sinn Fein could back down in talks
DUP MP suggests ‘poodle’ Sinn Fein could back down in talks


A senior MP for the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has said there is “virtually no chance” of a deal being struck for the restoration of the Stormont Assembly in Belfast ahead of the looming deadline next Monday. Sammy Wilson described Sinn Fein’s position as “unworkable” and claimed the party are “overplaying their hand”.

Monday’s deadline for securing agreement in talks follows the election earlier this month in which the DUP lost more that a quarter of its representation. That was brought about by the decision of the Sinn Fein deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who passed away this week, to end powersharing -- for a variety of reasons, but mainly because of the failure of the DUP leader Arlene Foster to step aside amid a billion pound financial scandal.

Stormont legislation requires that the Assembly must nominate a First and deputy First Minister on Monday afternoon, as well as appointing a new speaker. If the Assembly members are unable to do so, then the British Direct Ruler James Brokenshire must call another election within a ‘reasonable’ period.

Wilson, who is MP for East Antrim declared: “There is no chance of a breakthrough in the next week unless Sinn Fein roll back. They have fallen out with the secretary of state and said they don’t trust him to chair the talks because he is too close to the [British] Army.

“They also want the release of sensitive documents, which the MoD (Ministry of Defence) will never agree to. They want soldiers to be brought before the courts, which a large number of backbench MPs will never agree to.

“And they want a border poll, despite Theresa May telling Scotland there will not be another referendum on Scottish independence.”

He claimed Sinn Fein could suddenly back down, as they did in the negotiation of the notorious ‘Fresh Start’ agreement last year.

“In the past Sinn Fein have talked tough and then at the finish they have behaved like poodles. Just look at how they gave in over the issue of welfare reform. I don’t know if that will be the case this time.”

Negotiations were suspended for Martin McGuinness’s funeral on Thursday. It is expected that talking will continue on Saturday with another suspension on Sunday before resuming on Monday morning.

A principal issue which remains deeply deadlocked is the handling of truth and justice campaigns for the victims of British state killings. The British government has refused to budge on a matter it describes as one of ‘national security’.

Brokenshire said he believed that a deal was still achievable, “with good will, good spirit and that positive intent. But time is short and we must firmly focus on those key issues to enable an Executive to be formed on Monday.”

Sinn Fein Assembly member Conor Murphy said that Brokenshire needs to bring forward substantial proposals on implementing agreements, rather than engage in ‘pep talks’.

“The talks are in a critical period,” he said. “The clock is ticking and there can be no return to direct rule.

“Sinn Fein are in Stormont today. A deal is possible, the agreements are already in place, what’s required is their implementation.

“The British government are offering pep talks but what’s required are substantial proposals from the British government and the DUP on implementing agreements.”

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams also said the party is opposed to any extension of Monday’s deadline as there “cannot be continuous negotiation and re-negotiation of agreements already made.”

“There is only a very short time to form the Executive for the northern Assembly. So far, there is no agreement to do this. Sinn Fein has made it clear that there can be no return to the status quo,” said Mr Adams.

He stressed that Sinn Fein is opposed to any attempt to bring back full Direct Rule from London as an alternative to Stormont.

“The Irish government is the co-equal guarantor of the Good Friday and subsequent Agreements. The Taoiseach needs to make it clear by deed as well as word that the government will implement in full its obligations and hold the British government to account for its obligations, internationally if need be,” he added.

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