DUP predicts direct rule as SF demands yet another election
As politicians in Northern Ireland prepared this week to return to talks to form a power sharing government the two largest parties, the DUP and Sinn Fein, predicted either a return to direct rule from London or a third election in less than a year.
DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said Northern Ireland is “heading towards direct rule” while Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said that if these latest political talks do not produce a deal to restore Stormont then there must be another election.
It is six weeks since Northern Ireland’s assembly election, called after then Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness pulled out of government with the DUP and its leader Arlene Foster.
Both parties have repeatedly accused the other of bad faith. Mr Donaldson, the MP for Lagan Valley, told the BBC that Sinn Féin needed to change its attitude if a political deal was to be achieved.
“They haven’t entered into negotiation mode in the meetings, they turn up and exchange views and leave but aren’t negotiating. I hope Sinn Fein this week will really begin to negotiate.”
“They are constantly making public statements and talking about negative outcomes. We are not, we have focused on the issues.
“We are in the talks, we are negotiating, we are putting forward our positions we are talking to Sinn Féin, we are talking to the other political parties but as things stand at the moment I have to be honest with you I think we are heading towards direct rule,” he said.
He later said that if there was an election the DUP would be “out to win”.
“We can’t rule out the possibility of another election and if there is one the DUP will engage and we will be out to win,” said Mr Donaldson.
SF President Gerry Adams told an Easter Rising commemoration in Carrickmore, County Tyrone that his party believes it must be the responsibility of the Irish government to ensure direct rule is avoided and another election held if no deal can be reached.
“The current talks process has paused. But let me be very clear, it is the British government’s intransigence on legacy issues and the DUP’s rejection of the principles of equality, parity of esteem and rights that have made it more difficult to reach a deal,” he said.
“The role and responsibility of the Irish government must be to assert that an election is the only legal course open to the British government, if the current talks fail to elect an executive.”
“Progressive parties should not fear an election,” said Mr Adams.
“A new generous unionist approach will be embraced and met with flaithiulacht (generosity) from Sinn Fein and other progressives. “However, if what we have seen from the DUP in recent times continues, that will only guarantee that there will be no DUP First Minister and no return to the status quo at Stormont.”
Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire has said that if agreement is not reached by early next month there must be either a return to direct rule or a new election. He said the British government had not made up its own mind as to which it would be. How to deal with Northern Ireland’s legacy of violent killings and murders, calls for an Irish Language Act and Brexit are said to be the major stumbling blocks to reaching agreement on forming a new executive.
Meanwhile, Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan criticised the British government for a lack of engagement in the current talks.
Although Mr Flanagan singled out the Northern Ireland Secretary Mr Brokenshire for praise for his efforts he told The Irish Times there had not been “sufficient engagement” from the British Government. Mr Flanagan said there was an obligation on both the DUP and Sinn Féin to form an executive to counter the threat of Brexit.
“The next 10 days are absolutely crucial. I understand there are still deep divisions between both sides. Without a functioning executive it is difficult to have a common position on specific Irish concerns, such as the Border and the Common Travel Area,” he said