DUP and Sinn Fein clash over lack of progress in Stormont talks

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By Rebecca Black, PA

The DUP and Sinn Fein have clashed over the lack of progress in political talks to restore Northern Ireland's powersharing government.

The discussions, aimed at reaching agreement to resurrect the Assembly, have been ongoing for nine weeks.

Earlier on Wednesday, Secretary of State Karen Bradley told the House of Commons that she intended to return to Belfast for meetings as part of the talks process.

Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy claimed the pace of talks has gone into "go-slow" mode ahead of the annual July 12 parades across Northern Ireland celebrated by unionists and loyalists.

But DUP MP Gavin Robinson hit back, accusing Sinn Fein of "making excuses" and of a "lack of engagement" in the talks this week.

"Sinn Fein failed to provide any negotiators either yesterday or today but have found it necessary to mislead journalists and the public that this is in some way related to the Twelfth of July," he said.

"The truth is that Sinn Fein is clearly in a dilemma internally. They are seeking to use the Twelfth of July to cover their own leadership's inability to decide what direction to move.

"It's time Sinn Fein stop making excuses, step up to the table and earnestly work for an agreement which is fair, balanced and genuinely helps our society become the shared place it can be.

"The DUP wants the institutions to be restored immediately and for the talks to take place in parallel.

"Over recent days, it would seem that Sinn Fein neither want to engage talks nor restore the institutions."

Earlier, Mr Murphy told media at Stormont that he is frustrated that the talks have been put into a "go-slow".

"We have been here trying to address these issues of rights and restoring the institutions on the basis of the Good Friday Agreement, where citizens' rights and genuine powersharing is at the heart of government, as was envisaged in 1998," he said.

"The situation here has been unsustainable in terms of the closing down of this institution and we have applied ourselves over the last nine weeks to try and get these issues resolved.

"These issues should have been resolved weeks ago, if not months ago.

"It's our assessment at the current stage of this that there is very little going to happen here over the next two weeks and that is not the sort of urgency that is required.

"I find that disappointing and we find that frustrating and I'm sure we are not alone in finding that frustrating.

"I think it is long past time that politics in this part of the island is closed down to facilitate people marching on the 12th of July.

"We need to continue to address with a sense of urgency all of the issues in front of us and get this institution up and running again.

"There is no clear political water ... there is no better window coming, there is continued uncertainty in relation to Brexit, there is uncertainty in relation to the British Government itself and the instability and dysfunctionality which is going on there, there is uncertainty in relation to RHI (the Renewable Heat Incentive) and all the other issues."

The last DUP/Sinn Fein-led powersharing coalition imploded in January 2017 when the late Martin McGuinness quit as Sinn Fein deputy first minister amid a row about the RHI, a botched green energy scheme.

The fallout was soon overtaken by disputes over the Irish language, the region's ban on same-sex marriage and the toxic legacy of the Troubles.

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