Attempts to restore power sharing in Northern Ireland have today collapsed without a deal being obtained. The failure to reach agreement comes after over a year of talks and is thought to have been based around disagreements over the Irish language and same-sex marriage. Northern Ireland will continue to be governed directly from Westminster until a settlement can be found.
Arlene Foster, the leader of the DUP, said:
“For almost four weeks, we have been engaged in intensive negotiations with Sinn Féin. We have attempted to find a stable and sustainable basis for restoring devolution. Those discussions have been unsuccessful. Despite our best efforts, serious and significant gaps remain between ourselves and Sinn Féin, especially on the issue of the Irish language”.
Michelle O’Neill, representing Sinn Fein, blamed the DUP, saying:
“We had reached an accommodation with the leadership of the DUP. The DUP failed to close the deal. They have now collapsed this process”.
Karen Bradley, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, said in a statement:
“Both parties have conducted discussions seriously and in good faith. While substantive progress towards an agreement has been made, it appears that this phase of talks has reached a conclusion. I would urge everyone to reflect on the circumstances which have led to this and their positions, both now and in the future.
The position of the UK Government remains the same: devolved government is in the best interests of everyone in Northern Ireland and is best for the Union. I believe the basis for an accommodation still exists. As the Prime Minister said during her visit on Monday, we are ready to bring forward legislation to enable an Executive to be formed.
We will continue to work with everyone to make sure we do deliver this. We now need to consider practical steps. In the continued absence of an Executive, other challenging decisions will have to be taken by the UK Government. I will update Parliament when the House returns from Recess next week”.
Owen Smith, the Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, said:
“This is desperately disappointing news, especially as there had been widespread hope last week that a deal might be reached. It seems clear, however, that the cause of the breakdown was the DUP’s unwillingness to accept legislation to support the Irish language or marriage equality. Their lack of leadership on these issues, despite their powerful position in Stormont and Westminster, leaves Northern Ireland without an accountable government or a voice in the Brexit negotiations.
Karen Bradley will now have to explain how she hopes to get the DUP back to the table, and if that proves impossible, how she is going to take forward issues such as equal marriage, as well as dealing with tough decisions on health, education and infrastructure that have been left unresolved for over 400 days”.