Two governments criticised over 'hands-off' approach to north - The Irish News
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Two governments criticised over 'hands-off' approach to north

Micheál Martin criticised the two governments and Stormont's two biggest parties. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire

FIANNA Fáil leader Micheál Martin has criticised the British and Irish governments' "hands off" approach for creating the current instability at Stormont.

Mr Martin said London and Dublin's lack of engagement over the past six years was "flawed" and "disastrous" for the north.

The Fianna Fáil leader was speaking in the Dáil yesterday following Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan's statement on Stormont's stalled post-election talks.

The failure to secure agreement ahead of Monday's deadline to appoint a first and deputy first minister means there will be renewed efforts over the coming weeks to restore devolution.

Secretary of State James Brokenshire said on Tuesday that the parties have until after Westminster's Easter recess to resolve their differences.

The Tory MP said if agreement was not secured by April 18 then the British government would consider returning to direct rule.

The Stormont parties are expected to resume discussions today though whether formal talks will be convened was last night unclear.

Department of Finance permanent secretary David Sterling yesterday took control of the regional purse strings due to the absence of an executive.

In the Dáil, Mr Flanagan said there had been "some encouraging progress" since the talks began earlier this month.

The minister said discussions had taken place around preparing the executive budget and a draft programme for government, but he made a point of highlighting the "work done in dealing with the painful legacy of the past".

"I am conscious that victims and survivors are long overdue some evidence of delivery on these matters and determined efforts were made during the past three weeks by the two governments and the parties to further develop and agree the detail of how the Stormont House legacy bodies might be implemented," he said.

He said Dublin remained committed to "positive and proactive engagement" with the British government and the five parties.

Mr Flanagan said all concerned needed to "redouble their efforts" to reestablish the power-sharing executive.

But Mr Martin was critical of the two governments and Stormont's two largest parties.

He said the DUP and Sinn Féin had "systematically" excluded their smaller rivals from key information and negotiations.

"They have consistently failed to show respect for the core principles of the agreement and, in particular, the requirement that the executive operate in an open and inclusive manner," he said.

The Fianna Fáil leader said there needed to be a commitment by all involved to fully implement past agreements.

"These are not optional extras – they are formal and binding agreements," he said.

"Equality legislation, an Irish language act and other measures are core parts of the architecture of the settlement."

The Cork South–Central TD said there would be no stable executive unless the two governments increased their level of engagement.

"They were never intended to be external observers, rather they are supposed to be full participants in shaping a positive future for Northern Ireland with the Good Friday Agreement being a starting point not a conclusion," he said.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said any moves by the secretary of state brings to restore direct rule would be an "act of enormous bad faith".

"For our part, Sinn Féin wants to see the institutions up and working for everyone – we are not looking for any special favours or privileges for anyone," the Louth TD said.

"The terms for the re-establishment of the institutions are clear. They threaten no one."

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