WATCH: Sinn Féin's John O'Dowd and the DUP's Sammy Wilson clash over the issue of Arlene Foster's leadership
Sinn Féin’s John O’Dowd has told UTV his party will not nominate to the role of deputy First Minister if the DUP’s Arlene Foster is put forward as First Minister ahead of the RHI investigation.
The senior Sinn Féin representative said on Sunday that his party had gone to the electorate with that message and it had been endorsed by their vote.
“We will go back into the talks over the next number of weeks which are about, in my opinion, the implementation of agreements that have already been signed up to,” Mr O’Dowd said.
“If the DUP choose to nominate Arlene Foster to the joint First Minister’s office ahead of the publication of the RHI report, Sinn Féin will not be nominating to that joint office.”
Mr O’Dowd added that he believed the opportunity did now exist to create a successful administration “which truly reflects our society”.
However, he insisted that the RHI scandal “and the lack of confidence the public had in politics as a result” could not be swept aside.
DUP MP Sammy Wilson was equally insistent when he told UTV his party would not allow Sinn Féin to dictate leadership terms.
Accusing Mr O’Dowd of being unrealistic, he said that the DUP had also gone to the electorate with Mrs Foster as leader and been endorsed.
“We’re still the biggest party,” Mr Wilson said.
“And we will not allow Sinn Féin - regardless of what silly promises they made to their electorate - we will not allow Sinn Féin who we nominate for these positions.”
That prompted Mr O’Dowd to hit out at what he called the “embedded disrespect” from some DUP quarters, claiming that was exactly the kind of problem that had caused the current situation in the first place.
He added that all parties now need to acknowledge each other’s mandates, acknowledge the lack of public confidence in the institutions, resolve the outstanding issues and move forward.