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.
Wellcome Image Awards: The most striking images from the world of science, including breast cancer cells under chemical attack and a photographer’s own kidney stone
Missing Malaysia Airlines plane: 'All passengers' under investigation, police say
Bob Crow death: 'Admired by his members, feared by employers' - Tributes pour in for RMT union leader and 'working class hero' Bob Crow
Oscar Pistorius murder trial: Athlete repeatedly sick as court hears 'graphic details' of Reeva Steenkamp's post-mortem
How climate change helped Genghis Khan: Scientists believe a sudden period of warmer weather allowed the Mongols to invade with such success
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
Poor 'live like animals' says Boris's privately educated sister after going on 'poverty safari'
Exclusive: Impact of immigrants on British workers ‘negligible’
Vince Cable: Teachers 'know absolutely nothing' about the world of work
Ukraine crisis: Russia pledges to 'retaliate against sanctions' as Ukrainian president says Crimea vote will not be recognised
The quiet diplomat: Catherine Ashton - recognised and admired in all the world’s troubled countries, yet ridiculed at home
- 1 Pakistan vs Paul Smith: Sandal-wearers bemused by famed British designer's attempts to sell traditional Peshawari chappal-style shoes for the distinctly untraditional sum of £300
- 2 Family forced to flee home after discovering 'terrifying' nest of spiders in bananas
- 3 Grace Dent: Who cares if she spells it Barraco Barner? Gemma Worrall is more employable than some bookish arts graduate
- 4 Russell Crowe's Noah banned in three Arab countries before worldwide premiere
- 5 Bob Crow death: 'Admired by his members, feared by employers' - Tributes pour in for RMT union leader and 'working class hero' Bob Crow
£20000 - £23000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: Our client specialises in creati...
£30000 - £50000 per annum + Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: Private Cli...
£30000 - £35000 per annum + Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: Residential...
£1000 per month: Inspiring Interns: The company works with Tier 1 FTSE 100 Ban...