Wednesday 28 September 2016

SF 'has not taken Stormont seriously for two years'

Published 14/09/2015 | 02:30

Arlene Foster has taken up the role of Acting First Minister
Arlene Foster has taken up the role of Acting First Minister

The DUP has launched a blistering attack on Sinn Féin, saying the party "have not been taking government seriously for over two years" ahead of talks aimed at saving devolution in Northern Ireland.

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Simon Hamilton, who stood down as health minister last week, said his party has done nothing in recent days to jeopardise Stormont and claimed that Gerry Adams's party has tried "to deflect attention away from their responsibility for the problems we face".

His comments came as Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he feared elements opposed to the peace process had a hand in the killings of Jock Davison and Kevin McGuigan that have plunged the Northern Ireland Executive into crisis.

Mr McGuinness said those elements also wished to create difficulties for DUP leader Peter Robinson, who last week stood aside as First Minister amid the crisis prompted by the murders of former IRA men Davison and McGuigan. He also told his ministers to resign, with the exception of Arlene Foster who is now Finance Minister and Acting First Minister.

"The more I consider and the more I think about how all this began - the murders of two people, and our hearts absolutely go out to their families, Jock Davison and Kevin McGuigan - you need to be stupid not to be asking the question whose agenda is best served by those murders," said Mr McGuinness.

New talks involving the main parties and the Irish and British governments will be convened by Secretary of State Theresa Villiers today.

They will focus on the fallout from the murders and a range of other destablising disputes threating the future of the Stormont Executive, including the bitter impasse over implementing welfare reforms.

It is unclear whether the DUP will engage. Mr Adams said his party will enter the talks "in good faith and determined to find resolutions and agreement on all outstanding matters".

Last night Mr Hamilton said: "We are in the midst of one of the biggest threats to the existence of Stormont, not because of anything the DUP has done but because the Provisional IRA still exists, has access to arms and has used them to murder Kevin McGuigan.

"Sinn Féin have not been taking government seriously for over two years as they've welshed on two different deals on welfare reform and robbed public services of £150m-plus in the process.

"The DUP's actions in recent days have not jeopardised Stormont. They have been jeopardised by Sinn Féin bad faith on welfare reform and republican bad behaviour on our streets."

He acknowledged that some people will criticise him for quitting last week, but said he felt there was no option.

"We want an assembly and executive that works - not one that is tarnished by the presence of parties associated with terror," he said.

"As much as many of us want to see power over health and housing and the economy in local hands, it cannot come at the expense of justice and democracy. We cannot turn a blind eye. A government that tolerates murder at the hands of the associates of a senior party in power is no government at all."

Irish Independent

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