Suggestions by a former NI secretary of state that the UK government is principally to blame for the political impasse at Stormont have been branded “ridiculous”.
Peter Hain has claimed the responsibility for the failure to restore power-sharing lies at the feet of Theresa May, who he accused of not doing enough to break the deadlock between the DUP and Sinn Fein.
But his remarks have been dismissed by DUP MP Sammy Wilson, who described the Labour peer as a “Sinn Fein apologist” who was “attempting to lift the pressure off republicans”.
Another former secretary of state, Owen Paterson, has also criticised Lord Hain’s remarks and said the onus is on NI politicians to resolve the political crisis themselves.
Speaking on the Nolan Show on Tuesday, Lord Hain claimed the prime minister had “taken her eye off the ball” and was guilty of “neglecting” politics in the Province.
He added that the impasse could potentially have been resolved months ago if Mrs May had been “willing to roll her sleeves up and get involved”.
“I said months ago that we should have had a summit and it is an indictment of both the prime minister and the then taioseach that this did not happen,” he added.
“I don’t understand why that wasn’t done at the beginning of this crisis, before the parties got into these deeply entrenched, dogmatic positions.”
However, East Antrim DUP MP Sammy Wilson said the blame for the Stormont crisis rests solely with Sinn Fein.
He told the News Letter: “The prime minister is in the middle of the most important negotiations that the UK has faced in decades and she cannot be expected to hold peoples’ hands through this situation at the same time.
“Sinn Fein are the ones who caused this and they alone are to blame.”
Sinn Fein’s Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill has said there is no basis for the talks to resume unless the UK and Irish governments commit to deliver on “rights-based” issues.
This led DUP MLA Simon Hamilton on Monday to accuse SF of having “checked out” of NI politics.
But Mr Wilson felt the republican party had “checked out” of the talks process months ago.
He added: “They made their mind up at the last election when they didn’t become the largest party in Northern Ireland. They have strung out the talks process, they have not been engaged or shown any real desire to bring back devolution, and I think they are now focused on the situation in the Irish Republic.”
Mr Paterson, responding to Lord Hain’s call for the prime minister to get more involved in Northern Ireland, said: “There’s a constant narrative that the prime minister has got to sort it out herself, in person, and some sort of touching of the hem of the prime minister will resolve it.”
He said that the idea the UK government was principally to blame for the deadlock was “ridiculous”.
“It’s for the local parties to sort it out. If there’s no goodwill amongst the local parties it won’t be sorted out, no matter how hard any prime minister tried,” Mr Paterson added.