Stormont hopes fade as Sinn Féin claims DUP living in a 'fools paradise'
A deal to restore devolution by the talks deadline at the end of this month appeared remote yesterday with Sinn Féin toughening their stance against the DUP, saying the party is "living in a fool's paradise".
Sinn Féin Chairperson Declan Kearney, speaking at the annual Wolfe Tone commemoration in Bodenstown, said Northern Ireland's political process "remains overshadowed by financial scandals".
The current pressure on Theresa May's position as Prime Minister is thought to be shaping Sinn Féin's attitude to the Stormont talks, with speculation that she could face a leadership challenge in the Autumn.
With the DUP seeking to agree a 'confidence and supply' arrangement with the Conservative party, sources say Sinn Féin are prepared to wait it out, rather than negotiate with unionists while they are in a position of strength.
Mr Kearney's comments come as a confidential briefing document, laying out plans for the restoration of devolution, was leaked to a political website.
The British government briefing paper, laying out the roadmap for a deal, was leaked to journalist Brian Rowan and appeared on eamonnmallie.com.
The detailed draft paper was shared with the five main parties last week, with instructions that they had until Tuesday to respond to the agenda that includes a programme for government, budget, equality and respect, legacy, relations with the European Union and RHI.
It confirms previous speculation that the British government favour a statute of limitations on any future Troubles related investigations and states a previously agreed legacy deal should now go to public consultation.
It was also reported that the document makes reference to the unionist 'red line' around an Irish language act, suggesting discussion around a wider culture and language act "might merit exploration and discussion among the parties".
If a deal is not reached by June 29, there is not expected to be further substantive talks over the summer period with the budget, due in July, to be administered via direct rule from Westminster.
Last week party leader Gerry Adams appeared to use more conciliatory language saying Sinn Féin were ready to meet the DUP "halfway" on a number of issues.
Sinn Féin Stormont leader Michelle O'Neill said a deal was"doable".
"We remain fully committed to making the institutions work," she added.
Following a meeting with the new Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Dublin last week, DUP leader Arlene Foster also appeared ready to negotiate saying; "It takes two to tango and we're ready to dance".
However, Mr Kearney told republicans gathered at Bodenstown; "This is a serious situation which demands a serious focus by all parties. It is not a game, and it is certainly not a dance.
"If the DUP really wants to go into the Executive, that party needs to decide whether it is now prepared to embrace a rights based approach to government in the North.
"If the DUP imagines it can wind back the clock, with a Tory side deal or not, and reestablish the institutions without adherence to equality and rights, then the DUP is indeed living in a fool's paradise."