Dead­line ex­tended as ‘progress made’ at talks to save Stor­mont

Irish Independent - - News - Deborah McAleese

NORTH­ERN Ire­land Sec­re­tary of State James Bro­ken­shire has ex­tended the dead­line for the re­gion’s two main par­ties to reach a deal to re­store pow­er­shar­ing.

The DUP and Sinn Féin left Stor­mont shortly be­fore 9pm last night hav­ing failed to reach an agree­ment.

Stor­mont’s power-shar­ing cri­sis has raised the prospect of a re­turn to West­min­ster rule for North­ern Ire­land.

The par­ties had been warned by Mr Bro­ken­shire that they had un­til Mon­day to pro­duce a writ­ten agree­ment or he would be forced to leg­is­late for a bud­get for the re­gion at West­min­ster. How­ever, he later said that progress had been made, and he was there­fore go­ing to de­fer his de­ci­sion to leg­is­late for a bud­get.

In a state­ment he said: “The par­ties have made fur­ther progress dur­ing the course of to­day. They are mak­ing cer­tain ad­di­tional re­quests of the UK Gov­ern­ment which we need to con­sider.

“In the light of this, I be­lieve it is right to de­fer the as­sess­ment on whether to in­tro­duce leg­is­la­tion to Par­lia­ment this week to en­able an Ex­ec­u­tive to be formed.

“The par­ties will recom­mence talks in the morn­ing and I will re­assess the po­si­tion to­mor­row night.”

The North­ern Ire­land Ex­ec­u­tive col­lapsed in Jan­uary and it has been with­out a pow­er­shar­ing gov­ern­ment since then.

De­spite end­less rounds of dis­cus­sions, a deal to re­store devo­lu­tion has proved elu­sive with the in­tro­duc­tion of an Ir­ish lan­guage act seen as the main is­sue. Mr Bro­ken­shire and For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Si­mon Coveney were in Belfast yes­ter­day to try to help find a break­through to the po­lit­i­cal dead­lock.

Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams and Mary Lou McDon­ald also joined their party’s ne­go­ti­at­ing team at Stor­mont.

Through­out the day the DUP, Sinn Féin and the Ir­ish and UK Gov­ern­ments stayed tightlipped about any progress in the ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Be­fore talks be­gan on Mon­day morn­ing the DUP called on Mr Bro­ken­shire to set a bud­get to en­sure a “mea­sure of good gov­ern­ment” in the re­gion.

The party said it would not ac­cept “a bad agree­ment cob­bled to­gether to sud­denly suit the timeta­bles of oth­ers”.

Sinn Féin’s Conor Mur­phy said while a deal can still be done, it “needs to be a deal for all in our so­ci­ety and not just for the po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ships of union­ism”.

UK Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May’s of­fi­cial spokesman said the gov­ern­ment was still work­ing with the par­ties on reach­ing an agree­ment.

Ear­lier SDLP leader Colum East­wood said that if a deal is not reached by Mon­day’s dead­line, his party will not ac­cept di­rect rule from West­min­ster but only joint rule from both Lon­don and Dublin.

“It would be a sig­nif­i­cant and se­ri­ous breach of our po­lit­i­cal ac­com­mo­da­tion in the North and there­fore must not be the au­to­matic and the only fall-back op­tion,” he said.

The UK’s Sec­re­tary of State James Bro­ken­shire has warned the North’s bud­get may have to be leg­is­lated for at West­min­ster

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