Stormont houseSDLP talks negotiator Alex Attwood has warned that a cut and paste approach from Stormont House will fail, and with speculation growing over who will attend the talks, he urged the British Government not to bend to the DUP’s will.

He also called on the Acting First Minister Arlene Foster to withdraw and apologise for comments made last week about nationalist ministers.

Mr Attwood said, “Democracy and the rule of law and the values and institutions of the Good Friday Agreement are non negotiable. This is the surest path to navigate the next weeks. The SDLP will be unambiguous is its pursuit. The two governments must be too. If the Dup and sinn Fein think there is any doubt or wriggle room the negotiations will struggle.

“Last week the tectonic plates of our politics firmly shifted back to the two governments. The governments must occupy the ground. The negotiations are as big a test for the governments than the parties. The DUP must not be given any comfort to further damage the institutions of the Agreement.  They have been doing so for years. The offensive comments of Arlene Foster – which she should withdraw and apologise for – show how the DUP are on the wrong side of the right values.

“Republicans must not be given an inch on the rule of law. Criminality must be confronted and prosecuted whatever it’s form. This includes any past or present criminal assets.

“If the approach of anyone is to cut and paste from Stormont House with fresh words on criminality the talks will let people down. A rush to judgement by the DUP, a rush to the exit door by the UUP and a rush to denial by Sinn Fein all proved flakey judgement and self serving politics.

“Despite monumental pressure on and pleadings with the Sdlp last week the party refused to be derailed from defending the institutions. This week we will not be derailed from doing so again or compromising on the rule of law.

“The speculation on whether or not the DUP attend these talks is an immediate test for London. The DUP will be seeking more comfort, more damage to the Good Friday Agreement and more bending to their will. This is a slippery slope.A

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