Northern Ireland

Gerry Adams says NI political process faces 'greatest challenge' since GFA

Gerry Adams Image copyright RTÉ
Image caption Gerry Adams accuses unionist parties and the British government of failing to engage positively in political negotiations

The Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has said the Northern Ireland political process faces its greatest challenge since the Good Friday negotiations.

In a statement on Friday, the Louth TD criticised the unionist parties and the British government.

He accused them of failing to engage positively in political negotiations.

Mr Adams said their stance meant there was no likelihood of negotiations resuming in September on the past, flags and parades.

He also claimed that anti-agreement unionists had been allowed to set the agenda.

As a result, Northern Ireland's power-sharing government was being undermined.

Mr Adams said Sinn Féin were in government because they wanted to be and unionists were in government because they had to be.

He said there had been an absence of consistent positive leadership from unionists.

"It's been stop start, stop start and now the negative elements are setting the agenda," Mr Adams said.

He again reiterated his party's opposition to welfare reform and said the changes should be opposed by a united executive.

"We will oppose welfare reform - and it isn't welfare reform, it's cuts in the entitlement of citizens, it's led by a very narrow Tory ideological position," Mr Adams said.

"The way to oppose it is for the executive to be united. We're not and should not be in dispute with the DUP, the SDLP, the Alliance Party or anybody else on this island or in this state on this issue."

Last week, it was confirmed that Stormont departments, excluding health and education, were to have their budgets cut by a total of £78m.

Finance Minister Simon Hamilton also warned that further cuts, amounting to £87m, would be required if a deal on welfare reform was not agreed.

Mr Adams also warned Secretary of State Theresa Villiers about the demand from unionists and the loyal orders for a parading inquiry.

Unionists and Orange Order leaders made the call following a determination from the Parades Commission that prevented members of Ligoniel Orange Lodge from returning along a stretch of the Crumlin Road that separates unionist and nationalist communities on 12 July.

The Sinn Féin president said if such an inquiry was established it would damage the integrity of the Parades Commission, and further undermine the Haass proposals.

'Running away'

The DUP's Gregory Campbell said Sinn Féin was running away from the reality of welfare reform.

"We fought welfare reform in the House of Commons, when Sinn Fein was absent, they absented themselves because they don't attend," he said.

"When that went through, against our wishes, we did get some consensus in the assembly about our DSD minister Nelson McCausland going to the government and negotiating a flexible arrangement to that our vulnerable people would be sheltered from the worst excesses of welfare reform.

"But here's the key, the absolute fundamental point that Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein seem to want to run away from, to absent themselves from, that the money tap from London, the £10m subvention we get from London, it has been reduced.

"So the £87m that we should have got we're not going to get because of welfare reform."

'Nothing but nonsense'

Justice Minister David Ford, of the Alliance Party, described Mr Adams' comments on welfare reform as "nothing but nonsense".

"In a couple of years time, if we don't deal with welfare reform then Northern Ireland will have to set up its own entirely separate welfare system," he said.

"That is a cost that will run into hundreds of millions of pounds to set up and the net result is that Sinn Féin will have to face up to reality.

"Why they can't accept reality at this point, I can't fathom."

Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt said: "In his most recent comments it is quite clear that Gerry Adams is blustering. The fact is that there are big issues which we need to face up to, not least welfare reform.

"However, rather than address them by bringing legislation to the floor of the assembly, Sinn Féin are instead effectively saying 'Brits out, but please leave your open chequebook behind you.' This is clearly not the politics of the real world."

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