Sammy Wilson: Church leaders should call out Sinn Fein over Stormont deadlock

Church and political leaders at the meeting in Belfast on Friday
Church and political leaders at the meeting in Belfast on Friday

A DUP MP has encouraged church leaders to be more “courageous in identifying who the real source of the problem is” when it comes to the Stormont deadlock.

Sammy Wilson was speaking after a meeting in Belfast on Friday between the leadership of Northern Ireland’s five largest parties and the leaders of the Catholic, Presbyterian, Anglican and Methodist churches in Ireland.

The church leaders said, in a joint statement issued on Friday afternoon, that the talks focused on “the importance of relationships and trust “ and “the need to create the space to allow for more constructive public discourse”.

Mr Wilson said that while the “pressure” from church leaders to “try and get the Assembly up and running again” was welcome, he reiterated his party’s view that only one party is to blame for the current impasse – Sinn Fein.

“The only criticism I would have of the way the church leaders approach this, it is that they have approached it as if blame was to be equally dispersed amongst all of the parties – as if all of them had some defect in their approach,” he told the News Letter.

“The reality is that four of the five parties the church leaders were speaking to are happy to go into the Assembly today. Sinn Fein are the party which is unwilling to go in unless certain conditions are met, conditions which are totally unreasonable. I suspect the conditions are designed to ensure there is no restoration of the Assembly – so madcap that they cannot be taken seriously.

“I suppose the churches could have done better if they were to highlight that there is only one party holding the country to ransom and to start putting pressure on that one party.

“I am disappointed from that point of view, but I am sure Arlene Foster will have made it clear to them that we have no preconditions to getting the Assembly up and running, that we want the Assembly up and running tomorrow.”

Mr Wilson added: “By not being courageous in identifying who the real source of the problem is, they have done a real disservice to everybody.”