Ulster Unionist Party Chairman, Lord Empey, has stated that the DUP story about their failed talks process with Sinn Fein doesn't add up. He has called for openness and honesty from the DUP.
Lord Empey said:
“Even after three weeks since the DUP/Sinn Fein talks collapsed, doubt remains about the true story and facts of the extent to which there was agreement or not.
“The publication of draft documents and the Weir e-mail, indicating that Arlene Foster had given a hard copy of the document to Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill, support the theory that the DUP negotiating team believed they were almost there with an agreement with Sinn Fein.
“When the fact that Theresa May and Leo Varadkar were arriving, weight is added to the argument that a deal was imminent. Why would two PMs turn up for nothing? Furthermore, and perhaps more convincing, was the fact that the DUP and Sinn Fein made no effort to play down the press speculation that a deal was to be made. A single tweet from Arlene Foster would have ended it.
“The basic ideas contained in the draft agreement, of three component parts to a language deal, were not new however. Ulster Unionists became aware last Autumn, when the talks were paused, of the idea of the three pillars to deal with language matters. Whether it was three Acts, or a single Act with three schedules, the fundamental architecture was there and almost identical to that on the table on 12th February.
“This model was given the title of 'the reverse Canada model', apparently a reference to how language issues were managed there. Ulster Unionists were also aware last summer that significant DUP figures had already conceded an Irish Language Act in principle during the discussions with Sinn Fein before the summer recess.
“In a radio interview on Saturday, Sammy Wilson was at pains to distinguish between his party's negotiators and the main body of the DUP. Why would he do that if he wasn't making the distinction between his negotiating colleagues and the rest of the party for a political reason? Was he throwing them under a bus to protect himself and others from the public anger at the DUP for being seen to contemplate an Irish Language Act which Arlene Foster promised she would never agree to?
“Given that there is now overwhelming evidence that the DUP negotiating team was discussing and moving towards an agreement which contained an Irish Language Act, are we to believe that DUP MPs like Sammy were unaware of these discussions and the extent of the detailed nature of the talks? How could it be that Nigel Dodds would be unaware? In his interview on Saturday Sammy did not deny the existence of the document nor of the support for it from the DUP negotiators.
“The time has come for openness and honesty from the DUP. Their story doesn't add up and there is a growing public mood that only when there is total transparency can we begin to understand the full extent of the challenge ahead. Both Sinn Fein and the DUP have run Stormont into the ground. At a time when our public services are under enormous pressure and Brexit is reaching a key decision making moment, these two parties are seen as being incapable of delivering anything else but stalemate and confrontation for Northern Ireland. I urge them to tell the truth now. The people are entitled to nothing less.”