DUP and Sinn Féin voice reservations about Theresa May's fresh talks proposal

Arlene Foster accused Sinn Féin of glorifying terrorism at its ard fheis. Picture by Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Theresa May would like to see negotiations aimed at the restoration of devolution resume next week.

But both the DUP and Sinn Féin have voiced reservations about fresh talks in the aftermath of separate meetings with the British prime minister in Downing Street yesterday.

DUP leader Arlene Foster emerged from Number 10 claiming the prospects of a deal had been set back by the "glorification of terrorism" at Sinn Féin's ard fheis last weekend.

It is understood the former first minister was referring to Saturday night's tribute to the late Martin McGuinness when delegates cheered when told the how the late Foyle MLA was a "proud member of the IRA".

"We did say to the prime minister that the glorification of terrorism at the weekend at the Sinn Féin conference was making it more difficult to bring around devolution," she said.

"We are talking about a deal unionism and nationalism can live with – they are talking about nationalism and that's it."

Mrs May also held talks yesterday with Sinn Féin.

When the Sinn Féin delegation emerged from Downing Street, party leader Gerry Adams said he "didn't see any glorification of anyone" at the weekend conference in Dublin.

"I also, standing outside the office of the British prime minister, want to refute the use of this term 'terrorism'," the Louth TD said.

"Pejorative terms like that, which are about the sons and daughters of families, husbands and wives of families, who happened to serve in the Irish Republican Army and who died in the conflict, I don't use those terms, so let's have a wee bit of sense about this."

Asked about the difficulties in striking a deal with the British government, Mr Adams added: "I'm too long going in and out of this place to let anything annoy me.

"I understand how change works, it works when those who want change are prepared to engage with those who don't want change and persuade them it is in everybody's interests."

Following talks with the two parties, Mrs May said she believed the differences between them were small and could be resolved.

She said both parties had reiterated their commitment to the restoration of devolution.

"I am not underestimating the challenges that lie ahead but I believe that a way forward can be found so agreement can be reached," she said.

"I believe it is imperative the parties come back together next week for talks and that we resolve these differences."

Later a Sinn Féin spokesman told The Irish News that the party had made it clear to the Tory leader that there was no point in talks that would be "more of the same".

The spokesman said fresh negotiations needed to be "meaningful".

"We told her she had to clarify how any new round of talks would be substantially different from previous phases which Sinn Féin engaged in fully," he said.

"Mrs May knows that there are substantive issues to be resolved."

The spokesman said the British and Irish goverments had a "obligation and a responsibility... for these matters".

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the DUP and Sinn Féin were "desperate" and were "prepared to hand over their failed negotiation to a chaotic British government".

"The sight of the DUP and Sinn Féin shuffling into Downing Street is yet another signal of their failed negotiation which has left northern politics frozen in failure," he said.

The Foyle MLA said Stormont's two biggest represented a "failed status quo".

"Over 10 years we have all suffered the reality that they are incapable of governing," he said.

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