Sunday 20 October 2019

SF focus 'is on direct rule - not talks'

Michelle O'Neill Picture: PA
Michelle O'Neill Picture: PA

Niall O'Connor

Sinn Féin has been accused of being more focused on preparing for direct rule from London than restoring the institutions in the North.

The party was embroiled in a bitter war of words with the Irish government last night as efforts to strike a new power-sharing deal suffered a major blow.

Earlier, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams launched a ferocious attack on the Government, accusing it of issuing "malicious, shameful, and untruthful" off-the-record briefings to the media. He went on to accuse Taoiseach Leo Varadkar of "behaving in a reckless way", saying he should "stop it and behave like a Taoiseach should behave".

In further dramatic developments, Sinn Féin's leader in the North, Michelle O'Neill, disputed media reports about the efforts to form an executive.

The reports stated that the Government in Dublin believed Ms O'Neill was ready to do a deal with the DUP to restore power sharing - but was blocked by senior party figures. It's believed that there are senior figures in Sinn Féin who don't favour a return to power-sharing whatsoever.

The article said the view was also held by the Secretary of State to Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire.

Ms O'Neill and Mr Adams have denied the report - but sources in Dublin have now claimed that Sinn Féin has little interest in working to resolve the impasse.

A senior government source told the Irish Independent that Mr Varadkar and his colleagues are anxious to get the institutions re-established. "Everything else is an unnecessary distraction."

But the source added that it appears Sinn Féin's main focus is "preparing for direct rule" instead of getting the institutions "back up and running".

Mr Adams, in his statement, pointed the finger directly at Mr Varadkar.

"I am very concerned on an issue as important as this that the Government is using spin and anonymous briefings in the interest of its own narrow political agenda in this State with no real sense, no real concern about the necessary process in the North.

"The Taoiseach in my view, by what he has said and by these briefings, is behaving in a reckless way and he should stop it and behave like a Taoiseach should behave on issues which are in the national interests and above party politics."

Irish Independent

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