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

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.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
i100
Sport
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
boxing
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments