Northern Ireland

Peter Robinson 'crossed line' says Martin McGuinness

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Media captionMartin McGuinness said he took umbrage at Mr Robinson's comments

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has said Peter Robinson "has crossed the line" by saying they had reached agreement on welfare reform.

His comments came after the first minister claimed, in an interview, they had discussed a package to help alleviate the effects of reform.

However, he said Mr McGuinness had been unable to sell it to senior Sinn Féin members of the Irish parliament.

Mr McGuinness said Mr Robinson's version of events was not true.

"I think he crossed the line and I think it was a big mistake for him to cross that line," he said.

"Quite clearly some of the things that he said in relation to the discussions that took place between himself and myself and other negotiators on our side and his side on the issue of welfare cuts bear no reality to what happened at the time.

"I take umbrage at that."

He added: "The only way to resolve these issues is by mature leadership, sitting down with executive colleagues and finding a resolution rather than grandstanding on the media and presuming to speak for me."

Mr Robinson, the DUP leader, said in response to Mr McGuinness' comments: "I made it very clear in the interview that no deal is done until we get the support of our parties, that we were all comfortable enough to go with the package to our parties.

'Deal agreed'

"That's the position that I outlined, it's the position that I stand over. Indeed in terms of them not being able to get their party over the line, why on earth would he have brought me in on a Saturday afternoon if there hadn't been some exceptional set of circumstances."

The welfare reform bill, if implemented, would largely introduce measures already introduced elsewhere in the UK.

Sinn Féin and the SDLP are currently refusing to support it.

Speaking on BBC NI's The View on Thursday night, Mr Robinson said a deal had been agreed by himself and Mr McGuinness last May, but the deputy first minister could not sell it to his party.

"I feel let down," Mr Robinson said.

"We are elected to do a job, we took on that responsibility, that responsibility goes beyond being able to open nice new buildings and hearing the applause from the people for the benefits that might be derived from that.

"It also goes to making hard decisions that are not always popular."

Mr Robinson said that Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams had a very negative influence on the party's team in the Northern Ireland Executive.

"I know the slowdown that is taking place in terms of getting decisions taken because the decisions that we might take might cause difficulties for Gerry Adams and his colleagues in the Dáil," he said.

Mr Robinson also suggested that devolved powers for social welfare could be handed back to Westminster.

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