Wednesday 21 March 2018

Powersharing negotiations to be extended until Monday

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire Picture: Niall Carson /PA Wire
Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire Picture: Niall Carson /PA Wire

David Young

The UK government has announced negotiations to restore powersharing in Northern Ireland will be extended until Monday.

This is despite Stormont parties missing the statutory deadline to reach agreement.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said the passing of yesterday's 4pm deadline "does not mean the efforts to restore the executive are ending".

"We are now allowing the parties space to continue the discussions," she said.

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire will make a statement to the House of Commons on Monday outlining the government's intentions going forward.

In the absence of agreement, the options open to Mr Brokenshire include setting another deadline for the talks process, calling a second snap Assembly election or re-imposing some form of direct rule from London.

If a deal was to materialise over the weekend, the government could pass legislation to retrospectively change yesterday's missed deadline to enable a new executive to be formed without recourse to another election.

The Democratic Unionists and Sinn Féin, the two parties whose agreement is required to form a new administration, have accused each other of refusing to give ground on key issues.

Despite a pessimistic mood at Stormont, the Downing Street spokeswoman insisted that "very good progress" had been made in the talks.

Irish Independent

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