DUP accuses Sinn Féin of ‘disgraceful’ behaviour following talks collapse

Northern Secretary Karen Bradley meets NI parties about next possible steps to restoring Stormont

 Sinn Féin leader Michelle O’Neill (l) and Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Arlene Foster (r). File photograph: Carl Court/Getty Images

Sinn Féin leader Michelle O’Neill (l) and Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Arlene Foster (r). File photograph: Carl Court/Getty Images

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The DUP has accused Sinn Féin of “disgraceful” behaviour following the collapse of the Stormont talks.

DUP leader Arlene Foster was speaking at Parliament Buildings after a meeting with Northern Secretary Karen Bradley on Thursday about the next possible steps to restoring Stormont.

Ms Foster said Sinn Féin’s behaviour, where they “gave out position papers, tried to sell them as an agreement” after the latest phase of talks collapsed on February 14 was “quite disgraceful”.

“They have behaved in an incredibly bad way therefore the building up of trust is going to take a long time and it’s going to take actions,” she said.

The DUP believes devolution is the best form of government and said Sinn Féin “staying outside because of Irish language issues doesn’t deal with waiting lists in hospitals and reform in health and education”.

“There is an onus on Sinn Féin to move forward and we hope reality will soon bite,” she said.

Ms Foster said she wasn’t sure why Sinn Féin and SDLP were so keen on the idea of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference (BIIC) “talking shop” being convened as it hasn’t sat since 2007.

“For us it’s a distraction frankly,” she said.

Ms Foster rejected Sinn Féin’s claim the confidence and supply arrangement is the greatest obstacle to to restoring Stormont.

“So, let me get this right, an extra billion pounds for the people of Northern Ireland is the biggest obstacle to devolution? That is crazy talk,” she said.

Sinn Féin has accused the British government of prioritising its confidence and supply deal with the DUP over restoring powersharing.

Deputy president Michelle O’Neill and Conor Murphy MLA were among the Sinn Féin delegation to meet with Ms Bradley at Stormont House.

Ms O’Neill says it is clear the public want Stormont restored, but claimed “the DUP have checked out of powersharing”.

“You can see in their recent statements in the last number of days where they have said there is no likelihood of these institutions going up any time soon,” she said.

“That is the wrong approach and it is being pandered to by the British government because of the confidence and supply agreement.”

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds dismissed Sinn Fein’s suggestion.

“They have checked out, not us, “ he said.

Mr Dodds also reiterated the DUP position that regarding Brexit, “the union, the union, the union (between Northern Ireland and Britain) is the critical issue for us”.

“For us the fundamental red line is that Northern Ireland moves in lock step with the rest of the United Kingdom after we leave the European Union,” he said.

Ms Bradley also met with the SDLP, UUP and Alliance for exploratory talks.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the solution is the BIIC, a package of legislation, “clear the decks” and get back to health and Brexit challenges.

He also believes the confidence and supply agreement has given the DUP a veto over Brexit, BIIC and the restoration of Stormont.

UUP leader Robin Swann said Ms Bradley needs to give a clear indication of where Westminster stands and what the next steps are.

He said “time was running out for devolution” and he was not sure a deal can be done before the October Brexit summit.

Alliance leader Naomi Long said the party remain extremely concerned about the British government’s “hands off approach”.

“Someone has to take decision to bang heads together and apply pressure,” she said.

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