DUP’s Foster pressures Sinn Féin to agree Stormont deal
Gerry Adams says DUP-Conservative deal would be ‘coalition for chaos’
DUP leader Arlene Foster has told Sinn Féin leaders if they are concerned about her party’s enhanced influence at Westminster they should move to restore devolution at Stormont.
Mrs Foster rejected Sinn Féin’s claim the anticipated DUP-Conservative deal at Westminster would undermine the political process in Northern Ireland.
She warned that a consequence of failing to re-establish a powersharing executive would be the return of direct rule, with decisions on devolved issues being taken by the government in Westminster.
“If others decide that they are not coming back into the devolved administration here in Northern Ireland then those issues will have to be dealt with at Westminster,” she said. It is really for Sinn Féin to decide where they want those powers to lie.”
Any deal between the DUP and the Conservatives to prop up a Theresa May-led Tory government would be a “coalition for chaos”, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said at Stormont on Monday where talks resumed aimed at restoring the Northern Executive and Assembly.
The reappointed Northern Secretary James Brokenshire, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan and the five main parties are attending the negotiations.
Mr Brokenshire made a brief statement to reporters on Monday evening but did not take questions or not address calls for him to stand aside as talks chairman.
He did say however that the Tory discussions with the DUP were “entirely separate from our intent and desire to see devolution being restored here at the earlier possible opportunity”.
He said that, with goodwill, the June 29th deadline for a deal could be achieved.
Earlier, Mr Flanagan was asked about the DUP-Tory deal discussions and could Mr Brokenshire now be an “honest broker” in the negotiations.
He said the “letter” of the Belfast Agreement required both governments to apply rigorous impartiality. “I would be expecting that at all times during the course of these talks,” he said.
Mr Flanagan made clear that while the identity of who should chair the talks was an issue, primary responsibility was on the Northern parties to strike a deal to restore Stormont.
“Primarily the heavy lifting, the solemn responsibility is on the parties that have been elected to the Assembly as far back as March 2nd. The heavy lifting is on their shoulders,” he said. “Our role and responsibility as governments is to facilitate the process.”
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said Mr Brokenshire could not be an impartial chairman. “If James Brokenshire thinks for one second that he can be an independent arbiter, an independent chairman of these talks he is absolutely wrong,” he said.
An independent person was required to chair the talks “otherwise they are going nowhere”, added Mr Eastwood.
He also said that incoming Taoiseach, likely to be Fine Gael’s Leo Varadkar, needed to get more directly involved in the process.
Before entering the talks Mr Adams held a press conference with the party’s seven MPs by his side. He again expressed his opposition to the prospective DUP-Conservatives agreement.
“It is a coalition for chaos in the time ahead,” he said.
“We don’t believe that any deal between the DUP here and the English Tories will be good for the people here. Any deal that undercuts in any way the process here of the Good Friday and other agreements is one that has to be opposed by progressives,” he added.
Mr Adams said there was a “huge onus” on Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the incoming taoiseach to “ensure that all aspects of these agreements are implemented”.
Earlier, Mr Varadkar said the British government should not become too close to any party in Northern Ireland. “Our role as governments here in Dublin and in London is to act as co-guarantors and not to be close to any particular party,” he said.
Mr Adams said Brexit was the train coming down the tracks. “We all need to be match fit to face up to the responsibilities there. What we need is a united Executive that has a long term strategic view which is to the mutual advantage of everyone who lives on this island,” he added.
He said Sinn Féin would not reject any positive deal that might emerge from these DUP-Tory talks. “We never turn up our nose at good deals. Let’s wait until we see what sort of deal is done,” he said.
Mr Adams said that Mr Brokenshire should not chair the talks. He had nothing personal against “James”, but the British government was partisan and a player in the talks.
However, he appeared to suggest that removing Mr Brokenshire as chairman was not a red line issue for the party. “We will talk to James . . . he has big obligations in relation to all of this.”
Mr Adams said it was still Sinn Féin’s position that in the event of a deal to restore Stormont that Arlene Foster should stand aside as First Minister pending the outcome of the inquiry into the Renewable Heating Incentive inqury.
“It does not become an issue unless we have a deal,” he said. Mr Adams appeared not to take as hardline a stance as heretofore on this precondition for Sinn Féin returning to the Executive, indicating that it possibly could become an issue for negotiation within the talks.
Mr Adams said there was no pressure on Sinn Féin to end its Westminster abstentionist policy. “There is no pressure on Sinn Féin to do anything except fulfil the mandate that we received” in the Westminster election.
Overall the tone of his press conference appeared conciliatory. He said a deal could be done by Tuesday morning with the right will from all participants. He also referred to “positive warm signals” coming from the DUP leader on an Irish language Act and other matters.
“Let’s see the basis for all of that and let’s move forward on that basis,” he concluded.