ULSTER SAYS NO
HOPES for a new government in the North were shattered yesterday after DUP leader Arlene Foster has said there is no prospect of restoring the Executive.
In a statement that torpedoed talks aimed at ending the 13-month impasse at Stormont, she said attempts to find a stable and sustainable resolution had been unsuccessful.
She added: “In our view, there is no current prospect of these discussions leading to an Executive being formed.
“It is now incumbent upon the Government to set a budget and start making policy decisions about our schools, hospitals and infrastructure.
“Important decisions impacting on everyone have been sitting in limbo for too long. I had dearly hoped we could have restored an Executive and local ministers could have taken those decisions. That is not possible at this time. Northern Ireland is best governed by local ministers who are accountable to local people.”
Sinn Fein’s Stormont leader Michelle O’neill said: “We engaged, we worked in good faith, we stretched ourselves.
“We had reached an accommodation with the leadership of the DUP.
“The DUP failed to close the deal. They have now collapsed this process.”.
The failure just days
Taoiseach came after Leo Varadkar and British Prime Minister Theresa May travelled to Stormont to urge the parties to reach a deal.
She claimed there was a “basis for agreement” and an Executive could be “up and running very soon”.
The Stormont government collapsed last year in a row over a botched green energy scheme.
Since then divisions over issues including Irish language rights, same-sex marriage and how to deal with the legacy of the Troubles have proved insurmountable.
Sinn Fein wants a standalone Irish Language Act – but the DUP has long insisted it would only countenance new laws if they also incorporate other cultures such as Ulster Scots.
Mrs Foster added: “Restoring a sustainable and fully functioning devolved government will remain our goal but we will not accept a one-sided deal.
“Any agreement to restore the Executive must be on a sensible basis. We cannot and will not be held to ransom by those who have refused to form an Executive for more than 13 months.”
Northern Secretary Karen Bradley said “substantive progress” had been made but conceded “this phase of talks has reached a conclusion”.
“We now need to consider practical steps.
“Challenging decisions will have to be taken by the UK Government and I will update Parliament when the House returns from recess next week.”
The Irish Government, co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement which largely ended violence, has said there can be no return to direct rule.
Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said: “The UK and Irish governments have an obligation to uphold and protect the letter and spirit of that Agreement.
“We will need to reflect in the coming days on how best to do that.”
END OF THE LINE Arlene Foster at Stormont yesterday
FRUSTRATION Leo Varadkar, Karen Bradley and Michelle O’neill