Gerry Adams has claimed the prime minister and the Northern Ireland secretary are part of the problem in relation to the region’s post-election political stalemate.
The Sinn Féin president singled out what he said was a British government attempt to seek “special deals for their own armed forces” in terms of soldiers not being prosecuted for Troubles-related killings by the military.
Adams was referring to the James Brokenshire’s criticism of the judicial system before the election for arresting and charging a number of former soldiers with controversial killings during the conflict.
“We are very clear about our view that if recent statements by James Brokenshire and Theresa May are to be taken at face value then the British government is going to make all the mistakes that it made in the past,” Adams said, on the first day back for the new assembly after last Thursday’s election. Sinn Féin surged towards being within one seat of the Democratic Unionists, who are still the largest party with 28 seats.
Sinn Féin’s leader in the assembly, Michelle O’Neill, also reiterated her party’s line that the last first minister Arlene Foster cannot return to the post until a public inquiry into a botched green energy scheme the DUP leader promoted is completed.
So far, the DUP’s leading figures have lined up behind Foster to insist that they will not allow Sinn Féin or any other party to dictate who the main unionist party nominates for first minister.
Foster said she was going into the negotiations to restore power sharing and wanting to do a deal. Asked about feelings within her party she said: “There is no revolt.”
Nigel Dodds, the DUP MP for North Belfast, said Foster’s position as party leader and its nominee for first minister was “entirely secure”. There have been murmurs from within the DUP that the party might allow Foster to continue as leader but perhaps nominate another assembly member to the post of first minister.
Despite the gap over Foster’s position, the DUP and Sinn Féin are to hold talks later on Monday. The two main parties have just three weeks to secure an agreement that would lead to a new power-sharing government being formed in Belfast.
May and her Irish counterpart, Enda Kenny, are also monitoring developments, and are to discuss Northern Ireland again at the end of the European council summit in Brussels on Thursday.
On Monday’s talks at Stormont, Brokenshire said: “There is a limited window in which the assembly and executive can be restored.”
The Northern Ireland secretary will hold bilateral meetings with each of the five main parties in the assembly on Monday. His counterpart, the Irish Foreign minister, Charlie Flanagan, will not join the talks until Wednesday.
The last power-sharing executive collapsed because Foster refused Sinn Féin demands to step aside as first minister temporarily while a public inquiry was held into a botched green energy scheme that has cost the taxpayer half a billion pounds.
Sinn Féin’s then deputy first minister Martin McGuinness resigned from his position over the issue. Under the rules of power sharing the government fell because due to McGuinness’ resignation it no longer represented both sections of the community in Northern Ireland.
Meanwhile, McGuinness’s family appealed on Monday night for privacy over his illness and treatment in hospital. McGuinness’ close friend and long term ally Gerry Adams said that his family had requested privacy and that should be respected.