Northern Ireland

Declan Kearney says unionists 'showing poor leadership'

A senior member of Sinn Féin has claimed there has been poor unionist leadership for the past 18 months with a failure to act against extremists.

Declan Kearney claimed some unionists politicians and paramilitaries were "locked in a race to the sectarian bottom in a bid to win votes".

Mr Kearney outlined his party's position in an address to a conference at St Andrew's University in Scotland.

He accused very significant sections of political unionism of blocking change.

The Sinn Féin national chairman did not mention anyone by name.

He said the peace process was irreversible but required a new phase of reconciliation.

Mr Kearney said the process should not be taken for granted as key fault lines such as sectarianism and distrust continued to exist.

He said an initiative that involved all sides acknowledging the hurt caused in the conflict could help build trust.