Friday 17 November 2017

NI 'sliding towards' direct rule as result of latest breakdown in Stormont talks - Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Picture: PA
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Picture: PA

Kevin Doyle in Seattle

Northern Ireland is "sliding towards" direct rule as a result of the latest breakdown in talks at Stormont, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has warned.

Although the Taoiseach said there "really isn't a huge gap now between Sinn Féin and the DUP, the situation is worrying.

"I they actually think there is enough common ground to allow the two parties to form an executive in Northern Ireland if the political will is there to do so," Mr Varadkar said.

"We’re not certainly giving up at this stage on the possibility that an executive can be formed. There’s really not a huge gap between the parties now and I certainly encourage them to close that gap and allow the Northern Ireland executive to be established."

Asked whether direct rule now seems inevitable, Mr Varadkar said: "Obviously if it comes to direct rule, we are of course concerned that we’re now sliding towards direct rule. The fact that a budget may have to go through Westminster rather than through Stormont is in many ways the first step towards a restoration of direct rule, and it is the position of the Irish Government that we can’t support a return to direct rule in the form that existed prior to the Good Friday agreement.

"If it’s not possible for the DUP and Sinn Fein to form a government in Northern Ireland and if the British Government has to step in, direct rule is going to have to be different and we’ll expect all of the provisions of the Good Friday agreement to be honoured, that would involve for example working through bodies like the British Irish governmental conference and trying to work institutions like the NMSC in the absence of an executive.”

He said it is "really important" that Northern Ireland has a devolved government to deal with issues such as health and education, and particularly Brexit.

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