Adams decries ‘amatuerish and ham fisted episode’

Gerry Adams
Gerry Adams

Sinn Fein’s frustration with the situation was summed up in message from president Gerry Adams, which he posted online.

It read: “2 Govts exiting after most amateurish ham fisted episode I have ever been involved in.”

The structures and governance arrangements at Stormont are on the agenda on the talks.

But the most pressing issue is the budgetary situation.

Ministers in Belfast have already had to ask for an emergency £100 million loan from the Treasury to balance their books this financial year, and if a deal on welfare reform is not agreed they will face about £200 million of Government penalties for non-implementation.

As it is unlikely the administration would be able to absorb such a financial burden, the future of the Executive effectively depends on a resolution to the welfare reform issue.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said later in response to Mr Adams’ criticism, that there had been weeks of talks and Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers was involved.

“I think altogether, before they met yesterday, that was 85 hours sat round the table trying to resolve these issues.

“The PM went yesterday and himself spent 10 hours yesterday and a couple of hours this morning trying to resolve the issues.

“The Government is absolutely committed, as the PM said yesterday morning, to taking this opportunity to move forward and make progress, but it is down to the political parties in Northern Ireland to find resolution on issues like welfare reform and so-called legacy issues. The offer on the table is £1 billion of financial spending power. That would enable the Northern Ireland Executive and authorities to address some of the difficult reforms that they need to make. That is there for the taking by the political parties in Northern Ireland if they work to resolve the issues.

“There is a heads of agreement document on the table for discussion. What we need to see is progress on those issues which need to be resolved by the political parties.”

The Number 10 spokeswoman said that Mr Cameron “continues to stand by to help with this process”.

She added: “The point about the £1 billion that is on the table is that it will help to address the situation in Northern Ireland, where they need to reform the state and public sector”.