Gerry Adams calls for London and Dublin to govern the North

Sinn Féin president also says ‘offensive aspects’ of DUP leadership have been exposed

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams has called on the British and Irish governments to make decisions for Northern Ireland. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams has called on the British and Irish governments to make decisions for Northern Ireland. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams has called on the British and Irish governments to make decisions for Northern Ireland in the absence of a functioning executive.

In an interview with The Irish Times, Mr Adams strongly criticised the Democratic Unionist Party, claiming its failure to embrace basic rights had resulted in the failure to form a government.

The Sinn Féin president also claimed the DUP’s role in the recent Brexit negotiations had exposed people to the most “offensive aspects” of the party’s leadership.

It was a myth to suggest the party had taken umbrage with the new Fine Gael leadership “because they were so fond of Enda [Kenny], and now these young rapscallions are behaving in an unfair way”, Mr Adams said.

DUP leader Arlene Foster had been discourteous to former taoiseach Enda Kenny and had not spoken to the tánaiste outside of the formal discussions, he claimed.

Almost a year has passed since the late Martin McGuinness stood down as deputy first minister, and a functioning powersharing administration has yet to be restored.

Mr Adams said the introduction of marriage equality and Irish-language rights remained the critical issues for Sinn Féin.

However, he said: “There are other issues – the need for ordinary governance to prevail in terms of decency, manners and respect.

“I understand respect is a two-way street, I understand all of us can say things that people find objectionable, but there is a difference between me misspeaking and you misspeaking and an entire system being offensive and refusing to tolerate.

“For unionism the challenge is: if you accept a rights-based society in the North, then you are acknowledging that the state has changed utterly. Some of them won’t do that. Most of them have come round to that view but some in the leadership won’t.”

Against direct rule

The ongoing stalemate in the North has raised the prospect of direct rule from Westminster, a position the DUP has advocated in recent days.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Simon Coveney have insisted this is not an option the Government could support.

Mr Adams said Sinn Féin would support the establishment of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference to allow both London and Dublin to make decisions for the people of the North.

“It is not as good as having local assembly, it is not as good as having the all-Ireland, east and west, infrastructure in place, but it means decisions will be taken on the island of Ireland as opposed to them being taken by somebody from Sussex, or somewhere else that does not know a thing about the thoughts, culture or needs of people in the North,” the Sinn Féin president added.

Such a proposal is also favoured by the Taoiseach, who said he and British prime minister Theresa May would make another effort to promote agreement between the northern parties.

If this failed, the options were an election or the British and Irish governments implementing the Belfast Agreement in the absence of an executive in Northern Ireland.

New talks

Fresh negotiations are to begin in the coming weeks in an attempt to persuade the DUP and Sinn Féin to break the ongoing political deadlock.

Meanwhile Mr Adams confirmed Sinn Féin would introduce a time limit in dealing with disputes within the party.

Some 22 representatives had left the party in recent weeks, including a number who alleged they experienced bullying within the party.

The Sinn Féin president insisted there was no culture of bullying within the party, stressing that such issues are local rows that have dragged on for too long.

“Some of them are electorally driven, some of them are part of that process of change. What we should have done and we are now doing is going for a time limited period and then we are kicking in with disciplinary processes.”