Dodds: SF’s daily demands show they don’t want Executive restored

Sinn Fein's Northern Ireland leader Michelle O'Neill leads some of her party colleagues out into the Great Hall at Parliament Buildings. ''Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com
Sinn Fein's Northern Ireland leader Michelle O'Neill leads some of her party colleagues out into the Great Hall at Parliament Buildings. ''Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com

New demands being made by Sinn Fein “on a daily basis” shows they are not serious about restoring the Stormont government, the DUP has claimed.

As the political talks enter the final few days before the deadline for agreement, the DUP’s Nigel Dodds said their former power-sharing partners were focusing on “narrow partisan issues” at the expense of those which would benefit everyone.

Good Friday is the deadline for a deal and Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire said he would make a call on the state of negotiations over the Easter weekend to enable him to move Westminster legislation once MPs return from recess on April 18.

However, Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill has already said a fresh election should be called although she insisted her party was “committed to trying to deal with the issues which are there”.

Speaking following another day of negotiations on Monday – on the 19th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement – Mr Dodds said: “It is Sinn Fein insisting on new demands being implemented – not about health, education or public services, but about narrow partisan issues which we don’t think are in the best interest of the people of Northern Ireland.

“We are told this is about implementing previous agreements. But take Brexit. We have Sinn Fein now demanding special status for Northern Ireland.”

Mr Dodds added: “It is a ludicrous new demand which is clearly not in the best interest of Northern Ireland and is preventing the formation of government. That is one example.”

Also responding to Sinn Fein’s assertion it was committed to restoring the Executive, DUP leader Arlene Foster said she doubted that claim.

“We did say to them that after some of the things they have said (recently) that we doubt they want a deal. That is very disappointing,” she said.

“They are telling their people one thing and when they are in here they don’t seem to want to move and to compromise and to create the circumstances where we can go back into government,” Mrs Foster added.

Earlier, during a break from the talks with the DUP and UK government, Ms O’Neill said there was little prospect of agreement on the way forward, although she did add: “We have set out what we need to see delivery on and we need to see a different approach from the DUP and, indeed, from the British government. But post-Friday I think it is over to the electorate to have their say about the future.

“But clearly Sinn Fein want to make these institutions work, but they have to work for all our citizens.”

New Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann said he was finding it difficult to remain positive.

“We are seeing little sign of progress but the Ulster Unionist Party is still here and want to get a deal by Friday because we believe it is achievable,” he added.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood accused the DUP of failing to grasp that there “needs to be respect for each other’s identity”.