Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney has claimed the SDLP leader Colum Eastwood should be less concerned about Leo Varadkar's and Theresa May's 'feelings' and more focused on upholding the rights of Irish citizens in the North.
The war of words erupted after the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, T.D., and Mrs. May, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, travelled to the North on Monday in the expectation that Sinn Féin and the DUP were about to ratify a new power-sharing deal.
After it became clear that no such deal would be forthcoming for the moment, Mr. Eastwood blasted: "For the first time in 13 months people across the North woke up this morning with the real expectation that a deal would finally be done between the DUP and Sinn Féin.
"Two prime ministers were brought up to Stormont for a deal to be done - instead they are leaving here having been embarrassed by the DUP and Sinn Féin.
"The opportunity is still there to get this deal over the line but it will require a level of leadership and courage that has evaded these parties for far too long. Instead of allowing these parties to run the show, both Governments need to drive this process to a conclusion.
"I’ve also made it clear to both Governments that if a deal is secured we will play our role in any subsequent negotiations on a Programme for Government and we will judge the terms of the deal honestly.
"However, the SDLP will not be bounced into a Government that fails to deliver on our economy, our health service and our schools.”
Reacting to Mr. Eastwood's comments, Mr. McCartney said the SDLP leader "should be less concerned about embarrassing the British Prime Minister and more focused on the rights and entitlements of Irish citizens".
He said: “Colum Eastwood’s concern for Theresa May’s sensitivities is touching but surely getting the right deal is more important than getting an agreement simply to avoid embarrassing the British Prime Minister.
“This is the same British Government that has refused to honour past agreements, the same British Government that has imposed savage cuts on our public services and the most vulnerable members of our society.
"The same British Government that is pursuing a reckless and catastrophic Brexit on the people of Ireland against their wishes and best interests.
“Given their track record, perhaps the British Government should be embarrassed. Perhaps they should be hanging their heads in shame.
“Sinn Féin will continue pursuing the rights and entitlements of Irish citizens. If that embarrasses the British Prime Minister, then so be it.
“The SDLP leader should be less concerned about Theresa May’s feelings and more concerned about getting an agreement that enables genuine power-sharing based on rights, respect and equality for all."