Sinn Fein has been accused of using “threatening” rhetoric over the issue of welfare reform after its leaders met the Prime Minister on Tuesday night.
A delegation including Gerry Adams visited David Cameron for face-to-face talks in Westminster, which came amid the prospect of further planned changes to the benefits system in Northern Ireland (see below).
In a statement afterwards, the party said the meeting had been “useful”, adding that the Prime Minister must accept the Province’s “special circumstances”, arising from decades of violence.
The statement – issued in the name of Martin McGuinness – said the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement now face “imminent collapse”, and that the Prime Minister will have been left in “no doubt about the seriousness of the crisis we are facing”.
It concludes: “Successive British governments invested enormous, at times limitless, resources in pursuing a military agenda.
“They now need to bring a similar commitment to building a still fragile peace.”
Tom Elliott, UUP MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, said: “I hope they’re not suggesting that, if this doesn’t work out, that they’ll go back to shooting and bombing and terrorising the people of Northern Ireland.
“It almost sounds like a threat from them.”
When it comes to the call for more favourable treatment to be meted out to Northern Ireland on welfare, his party colleague Danny Kinahan (MP for South Antrim) said Sinn Fein were being “unrealistic” in their approach.
“Theresa Villiers has told us there is no more money; we have to sort it out and find our way forward,” he said.
The Ulster Unionists also criticised the DUP for its stance on the current welfare impasse, with East Antrim Assemblyman Roy Beggs saying that the “latest comments from Arlene Foster and Sammy Wilson indicate that the DUP appears to have given up on resolving the challenges facing the Assembly”.
It also emerged on Tuesday that Sinn Fein is advertising for an economics expert to join what it calls its “six-county Assembly team”.
The party said it was a new position, rather than one to replace an existing employee.
It also said that the role is being funded by the party, not by the Assembly, and that the successful applicant will earn the same average industrial wage as other Sinn Fein staff and MLAs.
. On Tuesday, unionist MPs at Westminster agreed to form a parliamentary group to promote the Union.
Though not an official body, it is expected to work on a cross-party strategy to bolster the unity of the whole United Kingdom.