Foster: ‘Huge frustration’ at Stormont impasse

There is “huge frustration” at the political impasse in Northern Ireland, DUP leader Arlene Foster has said.

She repeated her call to get talks on restoring the devolved institutions back up and running again as soon as possible. Her republican counterparts said they needed a “sustainable” agreement.

Mrs Foster said Sinn Fein could not get everything it wanted, “a 5-0 victory”, and her party receive nothing.

On Wednesday, Fr Martin Magill challenged politicians as to why it had taken the death of 29-year-old Lyra McKee to unite them, at her funeral.

Lyra McKee funeral
Funeral of journalist Lyra McKee (Brian Lawless/PA) 

Mrs Foster told Radio Ulster’s Good Morning Ulster programme: “We are now a year and a half forward, there is a huge frustration in our society.

“I think it is an eminently reasonable thing to suggest, dealing with the normal day-to-day things in the Assembly whilst dealing in a separate process with the help of our Government to dealing with the issues which Sinn Fein want to raise.”

Sinn Fein feels that would be a false start without dealing with the underlying issues first.

The DUP leader said: “That is putting their demands above the demands of the people of Northern Ireland.

“The people of Northern Ireland have demands as well and they are demands for a better healthcare system, they want their schools reformed, they want their infrastructure done.”

Sinn Fein leader Mary-Lou McDonald has said her party is ready to play a full part in a “serious and meaningful” talks process.

Her party is seeking guarantees around the place of the Irish language and changes to the law on same-sex marriage.

Ulster powersharing
Sinn Fein negotiator Conor Murphy (Niall Carson/PA)

Sinn Fein negotiator Conor Murphy repeated his assertion that the DUP leadership had previously reached an agreement and was unable to sell it to its grassroots.

“This is an attempt to get the Executive, recognising the faults and failings of the last Executive, recognising why it collapsed and wishing to put together one which is sustainable and does not collapse again.”

He told the BBC that Sinn Fein’s conditions were those imposed by the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

“We want a sustainable agreement, one which keeps an Executive in place, not a quick fix which gets us up one week and brings us down the next.”

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley has said she intends to hold discussions with Stormont’s party leaders this week in an effort to restore powersharing.

They attended a vigil together in Londonderry following the young journalist’s death.

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann said there should be no excuses for not engaging in meaningful talks.

“The record hadn’t changed.

“This is an abdication of political responsibility.

“It is clear that some are still intent on making excuses for not engaging in meaningful talks.

“For too long they have been allowed to hide behind soundbites and slogans.”

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