Sinn Fein will struggle to end the stalemate at Stormont that has breached the power-sharing administration in Northern Ireland.
As Mary Lou McDonald formally takes over the presidency of Sinn Fein this weekend it is likely her party will still be struggling to end the year-long political stalemate that has breached the power-sharing administration in Northern Ireland.
Talks this week with all five Northern Ireland parties involved, as well as the British and Irish governments, have produced so little progress that much more publicity has been given to Sinn Fein justice and police spokesman Gerry Kelly’s tangle with the authorities over his removal of a clamp (called a wheel boot in the USA) from his illegally parked car with bolt cutters.
Even Adams’ final interview with the BBC after nearly 35 years leading Sinn Fein – in which he expressed the strong hope that Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn would be Britain’s next prime minister – played second fiddle to social media footage showing Kelly at work on his clamped car with the bolt cutters after a Friday morning session at his gym.
There were calls from unionists for Kelly to resign as his party’s justice spokesperson and for the police to prosecute for criminal damage.
Later, Kelly explained that he had borrowed the cutters from a local gym to remove the clamp as he was late for vital political meetings. He voluntarily arranged to be interviewed by the Police Service of Northern Ireland and he paid a fine and the costs of damage to the clamp.
Kelly said he regretted his “on-the-spot” decision and the issue had now been resolved.
Meanwhile, hour-long crisis talks on Monday among the five main political parties attempting to find a way to end the year-long political stalemate were adjourned to Thursday with significant gaps still to be resolved.
The Democratic Unionist Party’s Simon Hamilton said, “We have huge differences between the parties on a range of key issues and we have been working through those issues.
“We have made some progress on many but there are some big and, in some cases, quite significant gaps.”
Sinn Fein senior negotiator Conor Murphy said, “This process will come to an end in the next short while and we will make a judgment then as to whether a deal is possible or not. We were told this is the last chance and we accept that the talks cannot go on forever.”
Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney and Britain’s recently appointed Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley attended Monday’s talks.
Both governments issued statements that difficult issues remained to be resolved, but also insisting that progress had been made and agreement was achievable.