Parties need to show greater realism and flexibility, says Farry

Alliance Deputy Leader Stephen Farry MLA has called on the DUP and Sinn Fein to show greater realism and flexibility to understand the reasons for the current impasse and to find a solution.

Dr Farry was speaking after a speech by DUP leader Arlene Foster setting out her party’s perspective on a return to the Executive, which was subsequently and speedily rejected by Sinn Fein.

“The political impasse in Northern Ireland now looks more deadlocked than ever. Great damage has been done through the prolonged political vacuum and we are now staring into a political abyss.

“Alliance has expressed our concern both the DUP and Sinn Fein have been playing their own cynical games, with alternative Plan Bs in mind. We have challenged them to energise the talks process and to make important statements to help build mutual confidence.

“Conducting negotiations through megaphone diplomacy is seldom productive. The DUP need to show greater realism. While we did not believe the Executive should have been collapsed in January, the DUP need to show they understand the grievances that in part led to that happening. Arlene Foster’s speech therefore should have gone further and recognised the past deficits in terms of mutual respect and inclusion, and the blockages on delivery around equality matters, and even recognised the principle of an Irish Language Act without prejudice to the final detail.

“In turn, Sinn Fein need to show greater flexibility and a willingness to consider creative solutions. Their swift rejection may have the effect of digging the trenches dividing the parties even deeper. They have an onus to demonstrate they are serious about making Northern Ireland work and this is current and primary focus.

“Northern Ireland now has a very uncertain future. The vacuum in governance is not sustainable. We are convinced devolutionists – it provides for local solutions and local accountability. And in framing a coherent response to the challenges of Brexit, it is more important than ever we have a local voice. Any return to Direct Rule may be much more challenging than the times Northern Ireland has experienced it in the past, and it will also need to be framed in such a way which takes into account an Irish dimension.

“Alliance is not giving up on the talks, and we are continuing to engage with other parties and stakeholders both today and over the time ahead.”

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