LONDON (Reuters) - The head of Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party said on Tuesday recent comments by its main nationalist rival Sinn Fein amounted to "glorification of terrorism" and made restoring the pair's devolved power-sharing government more difficult.
The latest efforts at breaking a near year-long political stalemate in Belfast collapsed this month, prompting Britain to begin setting a budget for the province, a major step toward imposing direct rule from London for the first time in a decade.
Fresh attempts at restarting the talks are unlikely until after both parties' annual conferences and DUP leader Arlene Foster's comments referred to Sinn Fein's celebration on Saturday of the role former Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness played in the Irish Republican Army's bloody campaign against British rule.
"It was quite disgraceful to look at the glorification that happened at the weekend of the IRA and terrorism and of course that makes it more difficult for us," Foster, whose father narrowly escaped alive from an IRA shooting, told reporters in London where both parties had been meeting British Prime Minister Theresa May for talks.
"But we are committed to devolution, we want to see it working and we will continue to work at it."
McGuinness, who died in March, two months after pulling Sinn Fein out of government, was remembered in a speech at the conference by MP Elisha McCallion as "a proud member of the IRA" to large cheers.
Gerry Adams also said on Saturday he will step down next year after 34 years as party leader, completing a generational shift in the former political wing of the IRA.
Ahead of the talks with May, Foster said that further steps towards direct rule looked inevitable unless there is a change of direction.
Many in Northern Ireland fear direct rule would further destabilize a political balance between pro-British unionists and Irish nationalists that has already been upset by Britain's vote to leave the European Union.
(Reporting by Michael Holden, writing by Padraic Halpin in Dublin; Editing by Stephen Addison)