Northern Ireland power sharing talks stall | News | DW | 04.07.2017
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Northern Ireland power sharing talks stall

The breakdown came just a day after London announced an extension to give the two sides more time to reach an agreement. Absent an agreement, London has warned that it may be forced to draft a budget for the province.

Northern Ireland's two main political parties announced Tuesday that talks aimed at forming a power-sharing agreement have broken down, and that no deal is expected within the foreseeable future.

The country's government has been in crisis since January, when the coalition government collapsed. The coalition is mandated under the 1998 Good Friday accord that ended 30 years of sectarian violence that killed nearly 3,600 people.

Nordirland Michelle O'Neill und Arlene Foster- Beerdigung von Martin McGuinness (Reuters/C. Kilcoyne)

Sinn Fein's O'Neill and the DUP's Foster

The two sides - represented by the Catholic nationalist Sinn Fein and the Protestant pro-British Democratic Union Party (DUP), respectively - have been locked in negotiations since a snap election in March.

The breakdown comes just one day after the British government announced an extension of the talks - a deadline for an agreement had already by-passed the participants last Thursday.

A Sinn Fein official said a deal was unlikely before September. Predictably, each side blamed the other for the breakdown in talks.

"Obviously we are disappointed that we don't have an agreement this afternoon and indeed we've been disappointed for quite some time that we haven't been able to reach an agreement," DUP leader Arlene Foster told reporters. "However we are going to keep working at it over the summer and hopefully we can come to an agreement later on in the year."

Sinn Fein blames May

Sinn Fein lay the blame at the feet of British Prime Minister Theresa May, who struck a separate deal last week with the DUP to support her minority government in the British parliament. Sinn Fein said that deal undercuts London's neutrality - a cornerstone of the Good Friday Agreement.

"What this constitutes is a monumental failure on behalf of Theresa May. She has set back decades of work that has been done here throughout the years," said Michelle O'Neill, the leader of Sinn Fein.

Both the DUP and Sinn Fein have been buoyed by historic electoral breakthroughs in recent months - Sinn Fein in regional elections in March and the DUP in Britain's general election last month. As a result, both are reluctant to be seen striking compromise with their rivals.

"The Sinn Fein electorate will not consent to be governed by DUP on DUP terms," Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said.

Northern Ireland's executive collapsed in January when Sinn Fein demanded the DUP's Foster step down pending a public inquiry over a botched green energy plan and accusations of "arrogance" towards Irish nationalists.

Foster has refused to step aside.

Britain's Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire warned Monday that if no agreement was reached he would be forced to draft a budget for the province and have it enacted by civil servants.

bik/bw (Reuters, AFP)

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