Haass talks: Peter Robinson attacks 'dictator' McGuinness

Peter Robinson called Martin McGuinness' comments 'very helpful'

Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson has launched a scathing attack on Martin McGuinness saying he had "an exaggerated view" of his role in the Haass talks process.

Mr McGuinness talked as if he was "a dictator" and showed a "visceral hatred" of the Orange Order, he said.

Mr Robinson was responding to Mr McGuinness' words on BBC NI's The View.

Mr McGuinness said unionist leaders told him the Orange Order, the UVF and PUP were acting as "one and the same".

The Orange Order said Mr McGuinness' remarks were "entirely without substance" and that it takes and stands by its own decisions.

"The Orange Institution takes its own decisions, applies its own decisions and stands by its own decisions," a spokesman for the order said.

In a statement released in the early hours of Friday morning, Mr Robinson said that Deputy First Minister Mr McGuinness' comments were "unhelpful and irrational" and that he was "in political denial".

'Visceral hatred'

He said they would not move forward current negotiations over flags, parades and the past.

This is another row with a distinct edge between the DUP and Sinn Féin.

What is different to some of the previous rows, where you got the impression that the main men in Stormont Castle had licensed their lieutenants to throw the odd rock at each other, is that this is happening between Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness.

It is hard to imagine it can be business as usual back inside Stormont Castle.

Peter Robinson did not like what he sensed was Martin McGuinness acting as if he was in control of the post-Haass process, and in his statement he is more or less defying Sinn Féin to walk away if they want to.

"He speaks as if he is not one of the parties but rather the controller and dictator of how the process will operate. He appears to believe it is everyone else's duty to reach an agreement on his terms," he said.

"The deputy first minister shows a visceral hatred of the Orange Institution in his interview. While the DUP will always take its own decisions on political matters, it deliberately invited a representative of the Orange Order to be part of the Haass talks.

"I defy Martin McGuinness to deny that Mervyn Gibson's contribution was anything other than instructive and positive."

Mr Robinson said every party in the talks process had to move in order to narrow the differences.

"Sinn Féin will not dictate the rules of engagement. They do not own the process. They do not control how it will function or what it will (or will not) consider, nor will they prescribe the timing," he said.

'Lack of leadership'

"The five parties will, by consensus, agree all of those matters and if they fail to agree then it will be as much his fault that he could not reach agreement with the majority unionist community as it would be the fault of unionists that they could not reach agreement with nationalists. Sinn Féin will not regulate this exercise.

"As the largest party in Northern Ireland we will not be shepherded into any structure that restricts our ability to conclude agreement on deal imperatives.

"If Sinn Féin or any other party does not want to be part of a process that seeks to resolve outstanding issues they can walk away, but that will display a lack of leadership on their part."

Winston Irvine, PUP, said Mr McGuinness' comments were an attempt by Sinn Féin to play a "divide and conquer" game with the unionist community.

Martin McGuinness was speaking on BBC NI's The View

He accused Mr McGuinness of being involved in "a dangerous attempt to stir up trouble".

"Most people will be bemused by these comments. The PUP has absolutely no influence whatsoever over the Orange Order, nor do they seek to want to have influence over the Orange Order or anybody else," he said.

"They are a political party who will seek to represent the views of people living within these communities. The only link that the PUP have is the link with the community."

The Haass talks broke up without a deal on New Year's Eve, and Tuesday saw the first meeting of Northern Ireland's five main parties since the end of the negotiations.

After the meeting Mr McGuinness said: "I have watched over the course of the last 18 months unionist parties dancing to the tune of extremists within their own community and that has to end.

"I say that because I believe the influence of these people has impacted on the Haass negotiations and the Haass outcome.

"This is a time for leadership, this is a time for standing up to extremists who are trying to bring this process down."

The interview with Martin McGuinness was broadcast on The View on BBC One Northern Ireland on Thursday night.

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