First Minister Peter Robinson brands Martin McGuinness a ‘dictator’ over breakdown of talks on future of Northern Ireland
Nationalist leader had blamed unionists for former US diplomat Dr Richard Haass’s failure
Belfast-born David McKittrick has been reporting on Northern Ireland since 1971, He has written for the East Antrim Times, the Irish Times and was The Independent's Irish correspondent for many years. He is the author of several books including Making Sense of the Troubles (2000) and Lost Lives (1999).
Friday 17 January 2014
Simmering political tensions in Belfast have erupted into open rhetorical warfare, with unionists and republicans angrily blaming each other for recent failed attempts to make progress.
Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein’s Deputy First Minister, accused unionist parties of “dancing to the tune of extremists” in failing to agree to a deal in recent talks. He claimed unionist leaders had told him that in Belfast the Orange Order, the main Protestant marching organisation, was “one and the same” as the Ulster Volunteer Force, an illegal paramilitary group. This, he said, had impacted on the recent unsuccessful negotiations chaired by former US diplomat Dr Richard Haass.
But in an angry response, First Minister Peter Robinson of the Democratic Unionist Party accused the republican leader of being unhelpful. He declared: “He speaks as if it is every other party’s requirement to move to his position, and if they do not then he considers it to be a lack of leadership on their part. He speaks as if he is not one of the parties but rather the controller and dictator of how the process will operate.”
Mr Robinson’s DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds added that republicans should “stop wallowing in the filth of murder”.
The heated rhetoric is a sign that the political atmosphere, which has been strained over the past year, has reached a new level of sourness. The DUP and Sinn Fein are in coalition in a power-sharing system together with three other parties, but have long been deadlocked on many issues.
The Haass talks were established to tackle three of the most toxic problems: those of regulating marching and flag-flying, and dealing with the past. But despite producing seven draft documents, agreement was not reached on any of them.
In the last phase of negotiations, Barack Obama and David Cameron were kept abreast of the state of play, with Mr Cameron and US vice-president Joe Biden telephoning to urge the unionist parties to clinch a deal. The Irish government also pressed for accord.
But the talks broke up on New Year’s Eve. Dr Haass, who has returned to the US, has since issued several appeals to the Belfast parties to come to reach last-minute accord, but without success. Sinn Fein and the SDLP, another national party, accepted the Haass proposals, but the DUP and the Ulster Unionists refused to do so.
Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'
Top conservatoire offers ‘groundbreaking’ arts degree
- 1 Scottish independence: Ireland since 1919 is a lesson for Scotland in what a Yes vote means
- 2 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 3 Grandmas keep accidentally tagging themselves as Grandmaster Flash on Facebook
- 4 Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
- 5 Kanye West stops concert after two fans don't stand up - doesn't realise one is in wheelchair and the other disabled
Islamic State: Pope is 'being targeted by Isis', Iraqi ambassador to the Holy See warns
Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton nude pictures exhibition cancelled after artist concedes photos were 'stolen property'
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
John Travolta addresses former pilot's gay romance allegations publicly for the first time: 'That was the lowest I'd ever felt'
Richard III: Two years after his body was found scientists discover how he died
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Scottish independence: Yes campaign feels the heat as Alex Salmond's NHS claims come under furious attack
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'
£23m Birmingham cycle scheme is attacked by Tory councillor for not catering to the elderly
£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35,000 first year: SThree: The SThree group i...
£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...
£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...