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Sinn Féin accuse James Brokenshire of 'waffle, waffle, and more waffle'

The Sinn Féin leadership at Stormont Castle in Belfast yesterday after meeting Secretary of State James Brokenshire. Picture by Ann McManus

SINN Féin cut short its meeting with James Brokenshire yesterday accusing the Secretary of State of "waffle, waffle, and more waffle".

The party held talks with Mr Brokenshire at Stormont but brought the meeting to a close early.

Sinn Féin leader in the north, Michelle O'Neill accused Mr Brokenshire of "waffle" and expressed frustration at his replies on funding for legacy inquests.

"All he did was waffle, waffle, and more waffle in relation to how we're going to go forward and give families what they need which is access to due process as per the request by the Lord Chief Justice," she said.

"So we have asked him to go away, reflect on that and come back with a positive outcome for those families that need access to the coroner's inquest reports."

In 2015, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan set out clear plans for a five-year programme to deal with inquests into some of the most controversial Troubles-era killings and requested £10 million to fund the project.

However the plans have stalled.

Mr Brokenshire, who held talks with the five main parties yesterday, said the mood of the meetings had been "businesslike".

"I think there's a sense of the urgency of what is at hand here, the significance of the issues that we're dealing with and getting back into devolved government at the earliest possible priority - that's what's motivating me and that's what I'm getting on with doing," he said.

The meeting came several hours after DUP leader Arlene Foster met members of her assembly team yesterday.

Following the meeting, Mrs Foster said she was delighted with the support she had received from her colleagues.

"We have had an excellent group meeting where we had a full and open discussion around the election campaign, the result and, of course, the negotiations that are going on at the moment," she said.

She added: "We are focused on the restoration of devolution and making sure that we have that stability for the people of Northern Ireland".

Deputy leader of Sinn Féin, Mary Lou McDonald, yesterday said it would be "unacceptable" to the party for Mrs Foster to be part of the executive while an investigation into the botched £490m Renewable Heat Incentive scheme is underway.

She added: "It's not for us to decide who leads the DUP...so that's a matter for themselves".

"But it is for us to insist that people in executive office carry a level of credibility," she said. "And Arlene Foster's credibility as a member of the executive whilst this investigation is underway would be at the level of zero."

Meanwhile, it has been reported that Prime Minister Theresa May will not get involved in talks to restore power-sharing.

Former Secretary of State Lord Hain said Mrs May must call an urgent summit to restore the executive or direct rule will be inevitable.

However, a Government source told the Press Association there is no reason for Mrs May to become intensively involved in post-election talks and Mr Brokenshire lead them, as secretaries of state have done in the past.

While there is no rush for Mrs May to directly involve herself in the talks she may get involved at some stage in the future.

Earlier, Lord Hain, now a Labour member of the House of Lords, said the London and Dublin Governments had "taken their eyes off the ball" and that a summit was now required "to bring all the parties together to thrash out an agreement".

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