We have been led up and down the garden path - party leaders angry as talks fail

Political leaders from across the spectrum in Northern Ireland have reacted with anger, disappointment and frustration after talks aimed at restoring powersharing broke down.

Among the first out of the blocks after Arlene Foster announced that no executive could be formed was the SDLP.

A clearly irate Colum Eastwood hit out, saying: "We have been led up and down and all around the garden path for the last number of months."

He repeated calls for details of the negotiations to be made public, adding: "We have to not allow this moment to be the destruction of all that we have achieved.

"Equally we cannot allow this British Government or the DUP to think they are going to govern Northern Ireland on their own. That cannot be allowed to happen."

Criticising the "hands off approach" of the British Government, Mr Eastwood also called for the Irish government to "stand up" for people in the region.

He said: "It's easy to pull this place down. It's not that easy to put it back together again."

Alliance Party leader Naomi Long said Northern Ireland was now in "uncharted territory" and that political investment had been "swept away" over the "most minor of issues".

Alliance Party leader Naomi Long (David Young/PA)
Alliance Party leader Naomi Long (David Young/PA)

"We have no prospect of a deal but also no process in place that could lead to a deal, nor do we have any indication of willingness by parties to continue any such process," she said.

Ulster Unionist Party leader Robin Swann called for further clarity.

He said: "We need to know, and what Northern Ireland needs to know, is the door to devolution now firmly closed or is there still a possibility of it being open?

"We need clear direction from the Secretary of State, is there another process, is there going to be another process or is this the end of devolution?

"I sincerely hope not."

Mr Swann stated that he would support a budget being imposed by Westminster, if necessary.

Talks Fail - Now Time to Move On https://t.co/riB63gJAkP

-- Jim Allister (@JimAllister) February 14, 2018

Of those outside the talks process, Green Party leader Steven Agnew also spoke of his frustration.

He said: "Yet again, despite attempts at optics to the contrary, we see the outworkings of a talks process that was restricted to two parties that have proved time and again that they cannot deliver."

Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) leader Jim Allister, an arch critic of the mandatory coalition government, said it was an overdue conclusion to a "pointless talks process".

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