In some of its frankest criticism of the North’s political process in recent years, Sinn Féin has accused the British government of indulging in a “sham” and a “merry-go-round”.
The comments came after a meeting of the party leadership with British Direct Ruler Karen Bradley. Leader Mary Lou McDonald said the roundtable talks involving the five main parties and the Dublin and London governments were only called to give a false impression that the British government was trying to resolve the impasse.
A dispute over DUP corruption which led to the collapse of Stormont remains unresolved pending the release of a report of a public inquiry into the bogus RHI ‘green energy’ scheme. Concerns of financial impropriety by the DUP have not been helped by revelations that North Antrim MP Ian Paisley received several free vacations from a variety of lobby interests.
Before the meeting began, DUP leader Arlene Foster blamed Sinn Féin for “unreasonable demands” in regard to equality and civil rights. But the key obstacle is clearly the Tories’ pact with the DUP, who sustain their besieged minority government in London.
Mrs McDonald said the two governments had failed to put forward any “credible proposition”.
“It is a disgrace that for two years we have not had our powersharing institutions,” she said. “We have established again that, without a shadow of doubt, the DUP remains wedded to an agenda of denial of rights.
“We have established that the British government remains in a position where they are happy to facilitate that veto on rights and we have made very, very clear that any serious attempt to restore the powersharing institutions has to be based on the principles of powersharing and at the core of that is a recognition of people’s rights, at the core of that is a commitment to full powersharing and sustainability.”
“There is a point at which honesty has to enter into the equation and for the Secretary of State to call a meeting to give the impression of action, when in fact the reality is one of inertia, is that helpful?
“We are open to any credible proposition but we will not participate in anything that amounts to a sham.”