Adams: Foster's position as First Minister will only be discussed after agreement

Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill (centre) and Gerry Adams (right) with other Assembly members speaking outside Stormont Castle.
Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill (centre) and Gerry Adams (right) with other Assembly members speaking outside Stormont Castle.

Arlene Foster's position as First Minister in the next Northern Ireland Assembly will only be discussed once overall agreement has been reached, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has said.

His party collapsed the power-sharing institutions after Martin McGuinness's request for the DUP leader to step aside while a botched green energy scheme was investigated was denied.

DUP leader Arlene Foster

DUP leader Arlene Foster

Stormont's politicians are considering how to implement measures dealing with past killings and a range of other issues as the deadline looms for a deal to rescue the devolved administration before fresh elections are called.

Mrs Foster said earlier this week the post in the next Assembly had not been raised by republicans with her.

Mr Adams said: "In terms of the sequence here it only comes into the radar if there is an agreement.

"We don't have an agreement yet. Let's get the agreement."

DUP leader Arlene Foster with deputy leader, Nigel Dodds.

DUP leader Arlene Foster with deputy leader, Nigel Dodds.

Almost half a billion pounds worth of taxpayers' money could be overspent on the failed Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme, which is expected to pay out more in subsidies than the green fuel costs.

A public inquiry into the matter has begun work and the judge chairing it has said it will take more than six months to report.

Mr Adams added: "Clearly, the inquiry is under way or at least it will be ongoing in the course of all of this and the issue of putting together an Executive does not arise until we have an agreement."

Mrs Foster was the minister responsible when the scheme designed to promote the use of green energy was drawn up. No wrongdoing is suggested.

Sinn Fein has vowed not to enter power-sharing with the DUP leader as First Minister until the scheme which left some businesses in line for a windfall is investigated.

Mr Adams added: "That only becomes an issue if we have an agreement.

"As Michelle O'Neill (Sinn Fein leader at Stormont) has said, our endeavour here as part of these implementation talks is to get an agreement. Let that be the focus.

"The focus is to get the terms where we can go back, not to the status quo but to the way the institutions should have been run.

"That is our focus, we have not gotten there yet, that is where we want to be."

The parties have three weeks to form another ministerial Executive or Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire may call another election.

Meanwhile, mediators who helped resolve Northern Ireland's bitterest parading dispute have met the Northern Ireland Secretary as part of a bid to restore power-sharing.

The "constructive" talks involved hugely experienced community figures who helped defuse the Ardoyne flash point march which has seen dozens of police officers injured and relations between local residents ruined by sectarian violence.

Jim Roddy has been at the forefront of successful negotiations with the Apprentice Boys loyal order over its demonstrations in Londonderry and last year helped the warring parties in the violent north Belfast impasse reach agreement.

Ardoyne Catholic priest Fr Gary Donegan was another key player in ensuring 2016's march passed off peacefully.

A statement from their Making It Work Group said: "We held a candid and constructive meeting with the Secretary of State today to discuss community issues relevant to the ongoing talks process.

"We have agreed to meet with him again over the course of the next three weeks and wished him, Minister Flanagan and all the parties every success during their deliberations."

Mrs Foster said she was in solution-finding mode.

She said: "If we are telling each other who we can and cannot nominate, then we will have something to say about the Sinn Fein nominees as well.

"We are focused on devolution, we are focused on finding solutions.

"We are in solution-finding mode, that is where we are and we hope that everybody else is as well."

Deputy DUP leader Nigel Dodds said the atmosphere between the parties was businesslike and constructive.