- Foster tore into Sinn Fein for failing to compromise to break political deadlock
- Powersharing has broken down after the two parties failed to agree on deal
- Northern Ireland could return to direct rule for the first time in a decade
- Irish parliamantary report set out plans use Brexit to pave way for united Ireland
By Kate Ferguson, Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4753934/Arlene-Foster-says-Sinn-Fein-NOT-INTERESTED-devolution.html
The report’s author, Fianna Fáil Senator Mark Daly, said that ‘everybody believes’ that at some stage there will be a referendum on uniting Ireland and that the country must be prepared for it.
Speaking at the launch if a new air ambulance service at the site of the infamous Maze prison – where Bobby Sands died on an IRA hunger strike – Mrs Foster painted a gloomy picture of the prospects of a return to powersharing.
She said: ‘The talks will begin again in earnest at the end of August.
‘But given some of the commentary over the summer from Sinn Fein it does point to me that Sinn Fein aren’t interested in devolution or an agreement with their neighbours in Northern Ireland.’
She accused Sinn Fein of showing ‘no spirit of compromise’ and ‘no willingness to build a shared future for all the people of Northern Ireland’.
She added: ‘It’s their way or no way. We want to see devolution but it takes two to make this work and if they don’t want to make it work then we will have to move on to a different situation.
‘We can’t keep going on and on. There’s a growing frustration.
‘I regretfully have come to the conclusion that Sinn Fein aren’t interested in devolution.’
Talks to restore Northern Ireland powersharing are due to kick off again at the end of August, but if they still fail to agree then Northern Ireland could face direct rule from Westminster for the first time in over a decade.
Sinn Fein blamed Theresa May for the failure of the negotiations, saying her decision to be propped up in No10 with the DUP’s support undermined her Britain’s neutrality in the negotiations.
Northern Ireland’s two biggest parties have clashed over protecting the Irish language, the DUP’s opposition to lifting the region’s ban on gay marriage, and mechanisms to deal with the legacy of the Troubles.
But Sinn Fein continues to insist that the Stormont institutions could be restore.
On Monday Sinn Fein negotiator Conor Murphy said: ‘It is our clear view, and we have been saying this since January, and we have been as frustrated as I am sure the general public watching, that these issues could be resolved within a matter of days.
‘It is very clear what the issues are – it is very clear where the gaps are. It’s around rights-based issues.’
The row comes as an Irish parliamentary committee tasked with looking into plans for Bexit has used it to lay out plans for the peaceful reunification of Ireland.
Mr Daly, who compiled the report, told the BBC unity could only come through active consent.
He said: ‘This is the first report by a committee of the Dail or the Senate on how to achieve the peaceful unity of Ireland.
‘Last year our former Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the EU needs to prepare for a united Ireland.
‘And it’s clear from the 17 recommendations by the committee that a lot of work needs to be done in advance of a referendum.’
The report recommends the establishment of a New Ireland Forum 2 to set a pathway to ‘achieve the peaceful reunification of Ireland’.
It adds: ‘Lessons from the failed referendums in Quebec and Scotland need to be learned to ensure that the Irish government fulfils its constitutional obligations of achieving its main aim of the peaceful reunification of Ireland.’
Meanwhile, in a sign of strained relations between Northern Ireland’s biggest unionist party and the Republic of Ireland, Mrs Foster also hit out at the Irish PM for saying he hopes Brexit can be thwarted.
Leo Varadkar, who later this week is making his first official visit to Northern Ireland since taking over as Taoiseach, said he is ‘hopeful’ the UK may stay in the EU despite last year’s historic referendum vote.
She said: ‘He may be hopeful, but that is disrespecting the will of the British people. Brexit is going to happen. We are leaving the European Union.
‘I just hope the Republic of Ireland will continue to work constructively with us in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK because it is very much in their interest to have a Brexit that works for them as well as a Brexit that works for the UK.’
Mr Varadkar angered unionists when he said Ireland will not help Britain design an economic border for Brexiteers.
Mrs Foster said the comments were ‘not helpful’ and added that the Irish Government ‘should reflect on whether they are being helpful to the process here in Northern Ireland or not’.
Mr Varadkar is openly gay and is visiting a gay Pride event in Belfast on Saturday, while the DUP have been widely criticised for opposing gay marriage.
Asked about this, Mrs Foster said: ‘He is perfectly entitled to come and attend whatever he wants. I go to the Republic of Ireland and attend events down there so he is perfectly entitled to do that here.’