Northern Ireland

Stormont talks: Sinn Féin 'committed' to power sharing'

Gerry Adams and Arlene Foster
Image caption Arlene Foster earlier claimed Sinn Féin was no longer "interested in devolution"

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has said his party remains committed to restoring powersharing at Stormont.

He even suggested that he would cancel his holiday if he thought a deal could be struck with the DUP.

Mr Adams was responding to the DUP leader, Arlene Foster, who earlier claimed Sinn Féin was no longer "interested in devolution".

Northern Ireland has been without a functioning devolved government since January.

The coalition led by the two biggest parties, the DUP and Sinn Féin, collapsed over a green energy scandal.

Speaking at the launch of the Northern Ireland Air Ambulance on Wednesday, Mrs Foster said: "Given some of the commentary over the summer from Sinn Féin it does point, I have to say, to me and to other unionists, that Sinn Féin aren't interested in devolution and interested in having an agreement with their neighbours in Northern Ireland."

She pointed in particular to comments made by Sinn Féin northern leader Michele O'Neill in the Irish News.

"There is no spirit of compromise, there is no willingness to build a shared future for all of the people of Northern Ireland. It's their way or no way and that's hugely disappointing" she said.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Mr Adams and Mrs Foster are due to meet Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on Friday

But Mr Adams accused the DUP leader of trying to engage in political "table tennis".

"Let no one in any circumstances, in any way, underestimate Sinn Féin's preparedness to make talks work. Our record is there for all to see, he said.

"I'm going on holiday. I'll cancel my holiday now. We will put a negotiating team in now to deal with these outstanding issues. They're all about rights. They're all very straightforward. They threaten no one."

He also questioned the DUP leadership's willingness to embrace a "new dispensation in which everyone's rights are respected and actively promoted and defended"

Meanwhile, Mr Adams and Mrs Foster are due to meet Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on his first official visit to Northern Ireland on Friday.

The DUP leader said she was looking forward to the meeting but she also accused the taoiseach of "disrespecting" those who supported leaving the EU after he said he remained "hopeful" Brexit would not happen.

"I just hope the Republic of Ireland will continue to work constructively with us in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK because it is very much in their interest to have a Brexit that works for them as well as a Brexit that works for the UK," she said.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The DUP and Sinn Féin remain deadlocked on several issues

The most significant sticking points between the parties are disagreements over an Irish language act, same-sex marriage, a Bill of Rights and measures to deal with the legacy of Northern Ireland's Troubles.

In January, the late Martin McGuinness, of Sinn Féin, resigned in protest over the DUP's handling of an inquiry into the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme.

His party had demanded that Mrs Foster step aside temporarily to allow an investigation into the scheme she set up, but Mrs Foster refused.

Over the past months, and during two elections at Stormont and Westminster, the two parties have remained deadlocked over a number of issues.

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