Tánaiste sets Christmas Eve deadline to restore power-sharing in the North
Tánaiste Simon Coveney has set a new Christmas Eve deadline for Sinn Féin and the DUP to strike a deal to restore power-sharing at Stormont.
Mr Coveney said there was a "good chance" that fresh Northern Assembly elections will have to be called in the new year without a deal as the law allowing the North to be run by civil servants expires.
But the Tánaiste has now set a new deadline for December 24 for the parties to avoid another election. "For me, I'd like us to be getting a Christmas Eve deal here that parties can buy into," Mr Coveney told the Irish Independent.
"I'd certainly like us to spend the last week before Christmas intensively engaging with all parties in Northern Ireland, with both governments giving leadership, to help them get essentially a political foundation for the re-establishment of a functioning executive."
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The new deadline will mean intensive talks between the parties and the Irish and UK governments are now likely to resume after the Westminster general election on December 12 with a view to striking a deal that re-establishes Northern institutions. Power-sharing has been defunct for nearly three years in Northern Ireland.
Several efforts to restore the Assembly and Executive have failed since it was brought down in early 2017 amid a stand-off between Sinn Féin and the DUP, the two largest parties, over issues including recognition of the Irish language, same-sex marriage, abortion and legacy issues.
Mr Coveney, who has previously set deadlines for Stormont's restoration that have come and gone, said: "For me, I don't think we should be waiting till January to do this. We shouldn't be doing it in a sort of a last-minute pressurised situation." Mr Coveney acknowledged the North is "very polarised right now" but said that parties there want to get back into Stormont.