Simon Hamilton has welcomed a “change of tone” from Gerry Adams over political talks, but warned the Sinn Fein leader that “cultural supremacy” is not on the table.
The DUP MLA made his comments after Sinn Fein’s president said his party was “fully committed to power-sharing” – and was “working to restore them”.
The two main parties have been locked in a political stalemate since the Northern Ireland Assembly collapsed in January, with Sinn Fein demanding an Irish language act as the price for restoring the Executive.
Speaking at an event in Ballymurphy yesterday in honour of republican hunger strikers, Mr Adams said: “Sinn Fein is fully committed to the power-sharing institutions and we are working to restore them.
“However, the lesson of recent years is clear. As Martin McGuinness reminded us the political institutions can only work if they are based on equality, respect and integrity.
“Our opponents ... claim Sinn Fein is no longer interested in the Assembly. They know this is a lie.”
Mr Hamilton responded by saying the DUP “will not accept cultural supremacy for one section of our community,” and added: “Gerry Adams’ change of tone is a step forward.
“The DUP has had no pre-conditions and stands ready to re-establish an Executive immediately. Whilst language and culture are important so too are decisions on health, education and infrastructure.”
In his speech, Mr Adams went on to say: “So in order that there is no doubt – let me make it clear to everyone, including republican grassroots; our leadership is up for doing a deal with the DUP and the other parties, and of moving back into the Executive on that basis.
“Let the DUP and the two governments also be in no doubt. No policy can be sustained without the informed consent of citizens.”
Mr Hamilton, who served as finance minister before the last Assembly collapsed, said the DUP will be “engaging with Sinn Fein this week” in the hope of making progress.
“We made a reasonable offer which would have seen government restored and negotiations on cultural matters take place in parallel. Disappointingly Sinn Fein rejected this offer within 90 minutes,” he said.
Mr Hamilton added: “We want to see government restored. We want to see culture and language matters fairly addressed.
“We will not accept cultural supremacy for one section of our community. There is enough space in Northern Ireland for mutual respect and a shared future.”