To talk or not to talk .. Sinn Fein’s mixed messages

Michelle ONeill at Stormont saying Sinn Fein was not interested in talks at virtually the same time Gerry Adams in Dublin was saying the party was always open for talks
Michelle ONeill at Stormont saying Sinn Fein was not interested in talks at virtually the same time Gerry Adams in Dublin was saying the party was always open for talks

Sinn Fein’s leaders today set out contradictory positions – at the same time – on either side of the border.

In Belfast, Michelle O’Neill told reporters that Sinn Fein was “not interested” in talks ahead of an election.

But, 100 miles down the road in Dublin, party president Gerry Adams – who throughout the Troubles always called for “dialogue”, even when the IRA were killing people – said that Sinn Fein was “always open for talks”.

The remarks came a day after DUP leader Arlene Foster slightly softened her position, saying that a DUP minister would call a full public inquiry into the RHI scandal and indicating that the DUP is open to talks with Sinn Fein over coming days.

However, after meeting the secretary of state at Stormont, Ms O’Neill said the Government needed to press ahead and call an election.

“We are not interested in trying to get into negotiations now – what we need is fundamental change,” she said. “We believe the public need to have their say.”

Around the same time, addressing the media in Dublin, Mr Adams said: “We are always open for talks and we are always open to meet. Of course we are.”

Later, Sinn Fein denied sending mixed messages and insisted its position was clear – that an election must happen come what may, but the party would not rule out meetings with others in the interim.

Meanwhile, the DUP Economy Minister, Simon Hamilton, formally communicated his proposals for slashing to “zero” the cost of the RHI scheme to Northern Ireland.

The scheme has, however, cost more than £32m since a whistleblower went to Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness’s office a year ago to warn of massive abuse going on.