A leading DUP MLA has said he “utterly rejects” Martin McGuinness’s assertion that unionists are allowing extremists to stifle progress on the Haass proposals.
Peter Weir said the Deputy First Minister was in no position to lecture unionists.
Both men were commenting after leaders of the political parties directly involved in the Haass negotiations met at Stormont yesterday to discuss the failure to reach agreement.
The latest talks followed the narrow defeat of a Sinn Fein motion in the Assembly on Monday evening that called for work to begin on implementing the proposals drawn up by the former US diplomat.
Mr McGuinness said afterwards that it was time for unionists to spell out where they stood on “the entire package” – and accused both the DUP and UUP of allowing extreme elements to set their agenda.
He said: “At today’s meeting we made it clear our opposition to renegotiation or time wasting through the establishment of some sort of working group.”
The Deputy First Minister added: “The elephant in the room and the key to positive movement is whether or not unionist political leaders are prepared to confront the extreme elements within their community who they are letting set their agenda on Haass to date and former members of the RUC and other Crown forces lobbying the DUP and the UUP to prevent truth recovery processes which are victim centred.”
However, the DUP’s Mr Weir said: “It was a worthwhile meeting and very constructive. The [Haass] process was not about reaching agreement with Richard Haass – it is up to the parties to work together to reach a better way forward.
“We will not take a lecture from Martin McGuinness about what our electorate think.
“The DUP has the largest mandate of any party in Northern Ireland and, unlike Martin McGuinness, we understand our electorate.”
Mr Weir added: “The Democratic Unionist Party wants to agree a way forward but it must be one that unionism and the people who vote for us can have confidence in.”
David McNarry of Ukip said the Haass talks and their aftermath was a “web infested tangle of party self-interests being put before the country and public’s needs.”
He added: “Yet all those knocked back into a retreat, seemingly emerged unfazed and unabashed as if they had successfully made their point count.
“Well they hadn’t and they couldn’t make their point because there was none to make. All they succeeded in doing was cancelling out each other and therein lies the shambles of the bluff they contrived over Haass.”
Victims’ group Families Acting for Innocent Relatives (FAIR) said they had now studied the final draft of Haass carefully and there are “a number of very serious issues which need to be addressed as a matter of urgency”.
In a statement released yesterday, the group said: “It is now quite clear Sinn Fein/IRA are operating a similar policy to that used by the Nazis prior to the Second World War, whereby they create problems and subsequently present themselves (Sinn Fein/IRA) as the solution or part of the solution to those very same problems, for example, the removal of the Union Flag and the increasing of tensions at parade flashpoints.
“Furthermore, attempts by Sinn Fein/IRA to rewrite history... cannot and indeed will not be allowed to happen.”