Northern Ireland

Sinn Fein 'paralysed' by SDLP says Robinson

First Minister Peter Robinson
Image caption Peter Robinson hit out at the SDLP's "ability to unnerve Sinn Fein"

First Minister Peter Robinson has launched a scathing attack on Sinn Fein.

In an address to his party as DUP leader, Mr Robinson claimed Sinn Fein's fear of the SDLP was often paralysing decisions in the executive.

He made the remarks to the Blossomhill branch in West Tyrone on Tuesday night.

Mr Robinson told members that the SDLP's "ability to unnerve" Sinn Fein was quite considerable.

"Too often Alex Attwood's position one day is Sinn Fein's the next," he said.

"Or worse still, a fear of what the SDLP will say or do can often paralyse their ability to take decisions."

He added: "Time and time again the SDLP takes a stance that Sinn Fein lacks the courage to oppose."

Mr Robinson said such a stance had been evident on welfare reform, pension reform and parades.

"This has been bad for community relations and bad for government," he said.

"The result is not increased electoral support for the SDLP, just further gridlock as the nationalist parties struggle to come to terms with reality."

Mr Robinson also accused Sinn Fein of chicanery when it agreed the Welfare Reform bill at the executive and then changed position when it went to the assembly vote.

"Such chicanery may be par for the course in the Republic, where they languish in opposition, but it is not the behaviour of a party of government in Northern Ireland," he said.

However, Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey dismissed Mr Robinson's comments.

"The statement's really all over the place and I assume Peter's getting himself ready for his party conference," he said.

"I would advise people to read the whole statement, it's so contradictory it's actually laughable.

"On the one had he talks about the SDLP tail wagging the Sinn Fein dog, then in the other sentence he talks about the SDLP being in terminal decline."

SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell said: "The first minister lambasting some of his executive colleagues does nothing to increase confidence in government or build trust.

"Not only is this public display and comment damaging, it is not a responsible way to conduct politics when people are looking to government to be responsible and to be on their side."