Anger at Sinn Fein’s claims of ‘extremists’ driving unionists

Dr Richard Hass
Dr Richard Hass

As the row over the failure to reach agreement at the Haass talks continues, Nigel Dodds has said an “abject lack of leadership” within Sinn Fein was hindering progress.

Calling on Secretary of State Theresa Villiers to urge the party to “stop wallowing in murder”, the DUP MP said Sinn Fein’s involvement in the “glorification of terrorism” was damaging community relations.

Mr Dodds made his comments during Northern Ireland Questions in the Commons yesterday in reaction to claims made by Martin McGuinness that unionists were taking their lead on the Haass proposals from “extremists”.

Speaking afterwards, the DUP deputy leader said: “The comments by Martin McGuinness in relation to ‘extremism’ are seen by many people across the community as not only untrue, but a transparent attempt to distract from Sinn Fein’s abject lack of leadership in relation to addressing their continued glorification of past terrorist crimes as witnessed in Castlederg this summer.”

UUP MLA Tom Elliott yesterday also rounded on the Deputy First Minister.

He said: “Martin McGuinness could not be more wrong in accusing the Ulster Unionists of dancing to the tune of ‘extremists’.

“I can assure him that we dance to no one’s tune; rather, we will always strive to do what is right for Northern Ireland.”

Mr Elliott said his party had entered the talks process in “good faith” and added: “Martin McGuinness’s time would be better served trying to get agreement within his own office before making false allegations about the Ulster Unionist Party.”

Speaking on the floor of the Commons, Prime Minister David Cameron said he hoped any progress made during the Haass negotiations could be taken forward.

Responding to a question from Alliance MP Naomi Long – who urged him to back the Haass proposals on dealing with the past – Mr Cameron said the former US diplomat had “done some excellent work” in producing his proposals.

“I noted that Peter Robinson, the First Minister of Northern Ireland, described them as providing the architecture for future agreement and discussion,” he said.

Commenting afterwards, Mrs Long said: “Alliance believes there is a moral obligation to urgently implement those proposals, which have the potential to deliver for those who suffered most in the Troubles, and to help wider reconciliation.”

Responding to Mr Cameron’s upbeat assessment of the Haass outcome, Ukip MLA David McNarry said the proposals are “going nowhere”.

He said: “Not even parking them until after the May elections will revive them. Nor will the bullying tactics of Martin McGuinness.”

Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly said the Prime Minister and Secretary of State should show their “unambiguous support” for the Haass/O’Sullivan proposals.