Peter Robinson has accused Martin McGuinness of having a “visceral hatred” of the Orange Order, as the post-Haass stalemate increases tensions at the heart of the Executive.
The First Minister also claimed Mr McGuinness was speaking as if he was the “dictator of how the process will operate” rather than one of the parties seeking agreement.
During televised interviews earlier this week, the Deputy First Minister and Sinn Fein MLA launched a scathing attack on unionist politicians, saying they were “dancing to the tune of extremists” in failing to agree on the Haass proposals.
Mr McGuinness also alleged that the Orange Order, whose county grand chaplain for Belfast Mervyn Gibson was part of the DUP’s Haass talks team – was “one and the same thing” as the outlawed UVF.
DUP leader Mr Robinson reacted angrily and said the Deputy First Minister was in denial over how progress could be made on contentious parades, flags and the Troubles’ legacy.
“The unhelpful and irrational comments made by Martin McGuinness will do nothing to take the negotiations forward,” he said.
“He is in political denial and clearly has an exaggerated view of what his role is within the process. He speaks as if it is every other party’s requirement to move to his position – and if they do not then he considers it to be a lack of leadership on their part. He speaks as if he is not one of the parties but rather the controller and dictator of how the process will operate.”
Sinn Fein and the SDLP endorsed the plan drafted by Dr Richard Haass but the talks broke up without agreement on New Year’s Eve.
Mr Robinson said that while the DUP takes its own decisions, it deliberately invited the Orange Order chaplain to be part of the talks. He added: “I defy Martin McGuinness to deny that Mervyn Gibson’s contribution was anything other than instructive and positive.”