Friday 24 November 2017

Angry Robinson accuses SF of going backwards

Michael McHugh

The North's First Minister Peter Robinson last night accused Sinn Fein of moving backwards in crunch talks to resolve the policing and justice dispute.

Progress has been made on key issues around the financing and running of the justice ministry, but the future of loyalist parades is still to be resolved, the DUP leader said.

With Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams warning that negotiations were at an end, Mr Robinson called for calm heads.

"It seems every time I think there is a good day [in the talks], I awaken to find someone is moving away and moving backwards," he said.

Sinn Fein wants to secure a date for the transfer of policing and justice powers from London to Belfast while the DUP has also been pressing for changes to how controversial loyal order parades are governed.

The Parades Commission, appointed from London, at present adjudicates on processions like Drumcree in Portadown, Co Armagh, where Orangemen have been barred from walking along the nationalist Garvaghy Road.

Mr Robinson added that both sides had recognised there was a need for engagement on parades.

"I thought we were moving in the right direction and were starting to see the areas of concern to the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and to Sinn Fein in relation to the structures recommended by the Ashdown Parades Review -- we were looking at other ways," he said.

In the summer of 2008 the parades review came back with what it described as interim proposals placing local dialogue at the heart of the process.

As speculation mounts that both governments will have to step in to save the negotiations, republicans escalated the war of words with the DUP.

Mr Adams said the talks effectively ended on Wednesday night, and he accused the Democratic Unionists of "playing the Orange card" by demanding concessions on Loyal Order parades.

The Sinn Fein Ard Chomhairle will meet today to decide on the next course of action.

There are fears now that republicans will crank up political pressure and may go as far as pulling out of the power-sharing government.

Mr Adams yesterday repeated that there was no deal with the DUP on the devolution of policing and justice powers to the Assembly, where unionist calls for agreement on replacing the Parades Commission are believed to be a major stumbling block.

Irish Independent

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