Sinn Fein blaming government for talks failure ‘beyond surreal’

Gregory Campbell, East Londonderry MP

Gregory Campbell, East Londonderry MP

Sinn Fein accusing the government of wanting power-sharing in Northern Ireland to fail is “beyond surreal,” Gregory Campbell has said.

The DUP MP for East Londonderry was commenting after the deadline for reaching agreement was extended until after next month’s general election – with Sinn Fein claiming the government did not want a local Executive in place taking “a firm stand against Brexit”.

Mr Campbell said the republican party’s reasoning was becoming “increasingly bizarre”.

He said: “There is only one culpable party in all of this since before Christmas and that is Sinn Fein.

“So for them to now blame the British government, when before they were blaming us and others, I don’t know who next will be to blame ... it becomes increasingly bizarre.”

Speaking at a press conference following a meeting with Secretary of State James Brokenshire, Michelle O’Neill, Sinn Fein’s leader in Northern Ireland, said: “There is a growing belief out there among the wider nationalist community that the government don’t want a power-sharing Executive to work here.

“They don’t want an Executive that is going to take a firm stand against Brexit because obviously the majority of people here voted to remain in the European Union.”

Ms O’Neill added: “So on June 8 the public will have the opportunity to have their say and they have to make their message clear to Theresa May that we are not for Brexit, we are not for a border and we are not for Tory cuts.”

She said that Sinn Fein and the public want the Stormont institutions restored and again accused the prime minister of showing a “blatant disregard to the people of the north”.

Mr Campbell said it was Sinn Fein alone who are refusing to make Stormont work.

“We don’t have to look very far in terms of the time line of events,” he said.

“This ‘crisis’ was caused because Sinn Fein walked out of the Executive. It wasn’t the British government or any other party that brought the place down. Then, whenever it was brought down and the election was held, when discussion began and throughout the discussions most of the parties – and I’m not going to speak for all of the other parties – but it’s fair to say, and the media has reported quite extensively, that most of the other parties while realising there are problems and issues are prepared to establish an Executive to get Stormont back up and running, with one exception and that’s Sinn Fein.

“So it wasn’t the British government and it wasn’t any of the other parties who are trying to prevent the Stormont Executive from getting up and running.”

Mr Campbell’s party colleague Jeffrey Donaldson said: “It is absolutely clear that it is Sinn Fein who are turning their backs on power-sharing.

“We could have a [Stormont] government up and running today if Sinn Fein would agree, therefore the idea that it is the government in London who are preventing power-sharing from taking place is just a nonsense.

“The [UK] government doesn’t have a horse in that particular race because they won’t be in the government in Northern Ireland and so it’s time for Sinn Fein to step up to the mark. They are the only people holding up the formation of a government.”