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.
- 1 Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
- 2 Stamford Hill council removes 'unacceptable' posters telling women which side of the road to walk down
- 3 Kim Kardashian 'nude pictures' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence 'The Fappening' scandal
- 4 Alex Salmond: 'The rocks would melt with the sun before I'd ever set foot in the House of Lords'
- 5 Ice Bucket Challenge: US firefighter Tony Grider dies after participating in charity craze near power lines
'The Fappening': Rihanna 'nude pictures' claims emerge on 4Chan as hacking scandal continues
Stamford Hill council removes 'unacceptable' posters telling women which side of the road to walk down
Kim Kardashian 'nude pictures' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence 'The Fappening' scandal
The Fappening: Jennifer Lawrence leaked 4Chan sex video branded 'fake' by forum users
Hitler’s former food taster reveals the horrors of the Wolf’s Lair
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...