Northern Ireland

Peter Robinson will not attend 'circus act' opening of NI talks

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionPeter Robinson described the planned opening of the new talks as a "circus act for the media"

First Minister Peter Robinson has said he will not attend the opening of next week's talks aimed at breaking the deadlock at Stormont.

The inter-party talks, convened by the Secretary of State Theresa Villiers, are due to begin next Thursday.

Mr Robinson, who leads the Democratic Unionist Party, called the planned opening of the talks "a showpiece" and "a circus act for the media".

However, he said when the "real work" began the DUP would be there.

'High wire act'

Mr Robinson told the BBC he was not aware that the talks were due to begin next Thursday and added he found out about the date through the media.

"The secretary of state hasn't spoken to me about the date of the beginning of any talks. I know that I have a very full diary as first minister next Thursday," the DUP leader said.

"Of course, the indication is that next Thursday is a sort of showpiece - the circus act for the sake of media - it's not getting down to the nitty gritty.

"I'm very keen to roll up my sleeves and get down, we want the process to work. We think it's essential that we look at the arrangements for government at Stormont. We think it's absolutely essential that we look at budget issues and welfare reform issues.

"So when the real work begins, the Democratic Unionist Party is there to talk about those issues, but we really don't favour the high wire act and the circus of bringing people together, just for the sake of the cameras."

Fresh talks

Mr Robinson said he did not want to be involved in a media exercise that he claimed was about "building up expectation, when really what's required is for us all to get down to work".

The secretary of state announced a fresh round of inter-party talks last month, just days after Mr Robinson had described the structures of devolved government in Northern Ireland as "no longer fit for purpose".

Writing in the Belfast Telegraph on 9 September, Mr Robinson said the weight of the issues to be resolved at Stormont was so great that it "must be tackled in a St Andrews 2 setting, with government involvement".

The 2006 St Andrews Agreement paved the way for the return of devolution the following year.

Sinn Féin, the second largest party in Northern Ireland's power-sharing coalition, had also called for fresh talks, and urged the British, Irish and US governments to get involved.

More on this story

Around the BBC