Tuesday 12 December 2017

Stormont deadline to be pushed out past the election

DUP leader Arlene Foster and deputy leader Nigel Dodds speak to the media on the grounds of Stormont Castle. Photo: PA
DUP leader Arlene Foster and deputy leader Nigel Dodds speak to the media on the grounds of Stormont Castle. Photo: PA

Deborah McAleese

Crisis talks at Stormont aimed at restoring power-sharing are to be extended to after the UK general election.

It is understood parties will be given three weeks after the June 8 poll to reach a deal. Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire is expected to announce the extension today.

Sources involved in the negotiations have said that provisions to form an executive by that date will be included in emergency legislation that will be fast-tracked through Westminster.

The region's two largest parties and former power-sharing partners, the DUP, led by Arlene Foster, and Sinn Féin, have spent weeks blaming each other for the failure to restore the institutions.

Read more: May's election call 'shows disinterest and disdain for Northern Ireland'

Long-running rows over a proposed Irish language act and divisions over how to deal with the legacy of the Troubles are holding up a deal. News of the extra time followed another day of discussions between Stormont parties.

Alliance leader Naomi Long said she did not expect fresh Assembly elections would be held on June 8. She believed the talks process would be "stretched" instead.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood also said he expected the talks deadline to be pushed to June. The SDLP has met with Sinn Féin and the Green Party to discuss the possibility of forming an anti-Brexit alliance in the run-up to the general election.

Mr Eastwood said a majority of pro-Brexit MPs cannot be sent to Westminster.

Earlier in the day, Sinn Féin accused the British government of wanting power-sharing to fail.

Michelle O'Neill, leader of the party in the North, said the British prime minister did not want a Stormont executive that would stand against Brexit.

"There is a growing belief out there among the wider nationalist community that the government doesn't want a power-sharing executive to work here," Ms O'Neill said.

"They don't want an executive that is going to take a firm stand against Brexit because obviously the majority of people here voted to remain in the EU."

Irish Independent

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