Northern Ireland

Gerry Adams: Northern Ireland political process 'in serious difficulty'

Gerry Adams Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Gerry Adams told unionist political leaders there would be no return to majority rule at Stormont and added: "The Orange state is gone forever"

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has said Northern Ireland's political process is "currently in serious difficulty".

He claimed a "negative political axis" was trying to undermine the Good Friday Agreement and reverse recent progress.

He made his statement just days after First Minister Peter Robinson claimed the assembly was "not fit for purpose".

Mr Adams said unionist political leaders "may hanker after a return to majority rule" but he said the "Orange state is gone forever".

'Think-in'

He made his remarks from a Sinn Féin talks event in the Republic of Ireland.

The party is holding its annual "think-in" at an Edwardian manor house in Termonfeckin, County Louth, where it will discuss its strategy for the year ahead.

The problems facing Northern Ireland's devolved political institutions were highlighted earlier this week, in a newspaper article written by the first minister.

Mr Robinson, who leads the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), laid out his concerns about the delays, disagreements and "unsatisfactory compromises" facing ministers at Stormont.

'Ludicrous'

Writing in the Belfast Telegraph on Tuesday, Mr Robinson called for a fresh round of political negotiations with government involvement, on the scale of the 2006 St Andrews Agreement, which led to the DUP agreeing to share power with Sinn Féin.

In his statement on Thursday, Mr Adams said: "We now have the ludicrous position of unionist leaders, who repeatedly walked away from talks, asking for new talks."

However, he said Sinn Féin was "open to negotiations and dialogue" and called for the Irish, British and US governments to be involved.

Responding to Mr Adams' comments, the DUP's Gregory Campbell said: "It was always envisioned, including at St Andrews, that the current Stormont structures were not a permanent solution.

"Gerry Adams, even if he is representing constituents in the Irish Republic, must be well aware of numerous DUP policy documents highlighting the need for further reform here in Northern Ireland.

"It is patently obvious to most people that the present arrangements are not working the way they should be, so Gerry Adams needs to explain why he views attempted changes to them, as, 'turning back the clock'."

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers held talks on Thursday with Mr Robinson and Alliance leader David Ford.

Ms Villiers met the Ulster Unionists on Wednesday and is due to hold discussions with Sinn Féin and the SDLP next week.

Responding to Mr Robinson's call for the government to convene fresh negotiations on reforming the system of government at Stormont, a Northern Ireland Office source said the secretary of state was "supportive of any initiative" which might move the situation forward, but it would need to be agreed by all the parties.

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