Tuesday 23 January 2018

Fresh crisis in the North as Sinn Féin-DUP talks collapse

Martin McGuinness Picture: Damien Eagers
Martin McGuinness Picture: Damien Eagers
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Talks aimed at restoring devolution in Northern Ireland have ended in rancour raising the prospect of a return to direct rule from Westminster.

Sinn Féin said discussions with the DUP had run their course last night as the deadline loomed for a First Minister to be nominated.

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire will be obliged to intervene today, with a fresh election or direct rule among his options.

However, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said he believed the conditions to go back into power-sharing would be achieved in the time ahead.

As talks broke down yesterday, the party's new leader in Northern Ireland Michelle O'Neill said: "Today we have come to the end of the road."

Sinn Féin has said it will not share power with the Democratic Unionists' leader Arlene Foster as first minister until a public inquiry into the renewable heat incentive (RHI) is concluded.

Sinn Féin has also been seeking movement on issues like an Irish language act giving the tongue official status in Northern Ireland.

It also wants to see progress on legacy funding for Northern Ireland conflict victims waiting up to 45 years for answers over how their loved ones died.

The five main parties only have until 4pm today to resolve their differences or a fresh crisis will be triggered.

Mr Adams said that unionism was at a crossroads.

"The DUP cannot be in there representing the DUP voters. They have to work with us and any other party in there representing everyone. We don't have the basis for doing that, we are not going back to the status quo, but will we be back, will we get the institutions in place? Yes."

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said: "Despite constructive engagement by all of the parties and important progress being made during these discussions, it has not yet been possible to make the necessary breakthroughs on a small number of core issues."

He said it was a critical time for Northern Ireland ahead of next week's triggering of Brexit by the UK government.

Meanwhile, the family of Martin McGuinness have spoken for the first time since his death to say their "hearts are broken".

The former deputy first minister's wife, Bernie, thanked the thousands of people who lined the streets of Derry for his funeral last Thursday. "I and our entire family have been touched by the efforts of so many to provide solace and comfort to us throughout this very difficult period," she said.

Irish Independent

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