DUP negotiators can’t deliver - Sinn Fein

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Sinn Fein has questioned the authority of the DUP negotiating team, headed up by party leader Arlene Foster, after the last round of talks to restore power-sharing in Belfast suddenly collapsed as a deal was imminent.

Foster agreed a draft document to resurrect the Stormont Assembly last month before pulling the plug in the face of an alleged ‘backlash’ by party members angry at the prospect of legal recognition for the Irish language. She subsequently denied any agreement was reached.

Asked about the prospects of renewed talks with his unionist opposites, Sinn Fein negotiator Conor Murphy (pictured) said: “We have to ascertain who we are dealing with on the other side of the table.

“It’s a fundamental question in negotiations that are the people you are talking to able to deliver a deal? And the answer to that at the end of last negotiation was clearly no.

“So we need to ascertain all of those things. That could open up into a period of nothing happening and I don’t think that’s good for any of us.”

Mr Murphy made the comments as he lodged a submission with the Boundary Commission to protest proposed changes to the electoral map in the north of Ireland that overwhelmingly benefit the DUP. The party has openly sought to exploit its alliance with the Tories in the British government to force a gerrymander of the constituency boundaries. At least four constituencies could be without any nationalist representation at Westminster or Assembly level following the change of boundaries.

Mr Murphy also expressed scepticism over suggestions by the British government for ‘alternate governance’ arrangements, such as giving Assembly members some form of ‘shadow’ forum where they could discuss issues without wielding power.

“The ideas being floated by the secretary of state don’t seem to provide any momentum at all,” he said. “It’s very clear there is no agreed approach between the two governments.”

He reiterated Sinn Fein’s call for the two governments to intervene and jointly take action on disputes over the Irish language, equality issues and the funding of legacy inquests.

“The British government remains wedded to the DUP’s blockade on rights, language rights, marriage rights and the right to a coroner’s inquest which are enjoyed by citizens every where else in these islands,” he said. “There is an onus therefore on the two governments to deliver on outstanding rights and agreements and ending discrimination.”

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said that his party would support the idea of a “shadow” assembly, but SDLP deputy leader Nichola Mallon also rejected the proposal outright.

“Any suggestion that deviates from the Good Friday Agreement, an internationally binding agreement and one endorsed by the majority of people on this island, must be resisted,” she said. “All minds must be focused on the restoration of devolution.”

Speaking in Washington DC, former Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said he believed that the return of power-sharing is the best option for the North. Despite concerns that the DUP had little interest in reviving Stormont, he insisted that Arlene Foster and other negotiators had “acted in good faith.”

“Unfortunately their party did not follow their example,” he said.

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