The DUP has accused Gerry Adams of rewriting recent history after he claimed Stormont is “hanging by a thread” and laid the blame squarely at the unionist party’s feet.
Last night Mr Adams warned that the “future of the political structures created by the Good Friday Agreement hangs by a thread”.
In the 17 years since it was achieved the Agreement has faced many challenges, but Tory austerity cuts – which have left a gaping £600m hole in Stormont’s budget – “represents the gravest threat yet to the political institutions”, he said in a newspaper column.
The DUP is “still refusing to honour the Agreement on social security protection safeguards and the newly elected British Government intends to impose further cuts of £25 billion to public spending”, he added.
The Louth TD said London has so far failed to detail the wider impact of these cuts but Secretary of State Theresa Villiers has told Martin McGuinness that “they will be eye-watering”.
But DUP chief whip Peter Weir hit back that Mr Adams “has been trying to rewrite the history of the Troubles and is now trying to rewrite the history of the Stormont House Agreement (SHA)”.
“Everyone can read in the SHA what was agreed in black and white [on welfare reform] and all the parties agreed to it. Sinn Fein cannot rewrite that fact,” he added.
The row broke as Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness raised eyebrows by giving a speech in the House of Commons last night – the seat of British power in which Irish republican MPs have long abstained from sitting.
Speaking in the Macmillan Room of Portcullis House at the House of Commons, Mr McGuinness addressed an audience of MPs and members of the House of Lords from a range of parties, trade unionists, charities and campaign groups about the austerity cuts – the latest in a series of high profile appearances by Sinn Fein at Westminster.
East Belfast DUP MP Gavin Robinson said Mr McGuinness was “railing against austerity and the policies of the government just yards away from where they could actually make a difference. Most bizarrely of all they intend to lobby MPs at this event, presumably in the hope they might do the job that Sinn Fein’s own MPs refuse to do”.
TUV leader Jim Allister added: “I cannot help but think that the republican movement could go some way to ease austerity if they so wished. The people who carried out the Northern Bank robbery can surely find the odd million pounds down the back of the sofa.”
Meanwhile, Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers and Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan yesterday stressed the importance of reaching an agreement urgently, after they met in Belfast.
“It is important for the Stormont House Agreement to be implemented in full so the next priority has to be resolution of the dispute on welfare,” Ms Villiers said.