Northern Ireland

McGuinness critical of unionist leaders

Martin McGuinness
Image caption Martin McGuinness said unionists needed to be more engaged in the peace process

Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has said unionists need to be more engaged in the peace process.

He was speaking at the Sinn Fein ard fheis in Castlebar in County Mayo.

Mr McGuinness said there was a "marked reluctance by unionist leaders to respect the Irish identity of nationalists".

He also criticised Prime Minister David Cameron for a "semi-detached approach" to the peace process.

"More than once in recent months the observation has been made to me that Sinn Fein ministers are in government with unionist ministers because we want to be, but that unionist ministers are in government with Sinn Fein because they have to be," Mr McGuinness said.

"Speaking frankly this isn't good enough. Fifteen years on we need to apply the very same political skills and political principles to politics in the here and now if we are to truly harness the great potential that still exists.

"I have no difficulty whatsoever in respecting unionists' allegiance to their Britishness, but it gives me no satisfaction to tell you that there is a marked reluctance by unionist leaders to respect the Irish identity of nationalists and republicans."

Mr McGuinness said that infighting in the Stormont executive had the potential to do more damage to the peace process than dissident republicans.

He added that it was "an understatement" to say he was "unimpressed" when he recently met Mr Cameron in Downing Street.

"It is unfortunate that his semi-detached approach to the peace process and delivering the outstanding commitments from Good Friday, St Andrews and Hillsborough has been in many ways mirrored by the current Irish government also," he said.