Northern leaders must get back to talks, Peter Robinson warns

Former first minister: ‘Ultimately we are going to have to get back round the table again’

Former DUP leader Peter Robinson (with red tie) joins his successor as party  leader Arlene Foster  for the unveiling of a portrait of late former Sinn Féin deputy first minister Martin McGuinness  in the Parliament Building, Belfast, Northern Ireland, on Thursday. Photograph: Paul McErlane/EPA

Former DUP leader Peter Robinson (with red tie) joins his successor as party leader Arlene Foster for the unveiling of a portrait of late former Sinn Féin deputy first minister Martin McGuinness in the Parliament Building, Belfast, Northern Ireland, on Thursday. Photograph: Paul McErlane/EPA

 

Stormont leaders will have to return to the negotiating table if a solution to the political crisis in Northern Ireland is to be found, Peter Robinson has said.

The former first minister warned that political progress cannot be lost.

He said: “I think the atmosphere has been soured over recent weeks and the ‘he said, she said’ doesn’t help us in that process.

“I think there is a period required for everybody to calm down somewhat, but ultimately we are going to have to get back round the table again.

“That’s where solutions are found.”

The retired DUP leader was speaking as a portrait of his former powersharing government partner Martin McGuinness, who died a year ago, was unveiled at Parliament Buildings.

He added: “There is a need for us to move forward as a society – we cannot allow all that has been built up over the past years to be lost, and I think it is incumbent upon politicians of that generation to give that hope to especially young people today.”

Botched green energy scheme

Northern Ireland has been without a functioning government since January 2017, when the Northern Executive collapsed amid a row over a botched green energy scheme.

Since then, issues have widened to include the same-sex marriage ban, dealing with the toxic legacy of the past and Irish language rights.

The DUP and Sinn Féin were reportedly close to a deal last month but the talks fell apart on Valentine’s Day over disagreements about Irish language legislation. There has been further wrangling between the parties over leaked documents and their contents.

Marking Mr McGuinness’s anniversary, Mr Robinson said: “I don’t think either of us doubted the determination of the other to make the process work, I never had any doubt about Martin’s commitment to Stormont, to the Assembly, to the Executive – that’s a good starting point.

“No matter how difficult some of the times, we were able to talk to each other, we were able to exchange documents without them leaking out – that again in terms of trust was important as well.” – Press Association