LONDON — Sinn Fein has labelled the breakdown of talks over forming a government in Northern Ireland “a monumental failure” by UK Prime Minister Theresa May.
Power-sharing negotiations have been put on hold for the summer after attempts to come to an agreement between the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein again broke down.
Speaking outside Stormont on Tuesday Sinn Fein’s leader in Northern Ireland, Michelle O’Neill, said that her party were “disappointed but not surprised” that a deal had not yet been reached.
“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, it is a consequence as we all know of the DUP supporting the PM, and in turn the PM supporting the DUP,” O’Neill said.
The Conservative Party signed a £1.5 billion “confidence and supply” deal with the DUP last month so they could continue to rule with a minority government.
Northern Ireland has been without an executive since January when deputy first minister Martin McGuinness resigned in protest at theRenewable Heat Incentive scandal, which brought down the government and triggered an assembly election.
The Northern Ireland secretary, James Brokenshire, confirmed on Tuesday evening that talks would be put on hold, saying that an executive will not be “formed in the immediate term.”
Brokenshire said: “Our overriding priority remains to reach agreement on restoring an inclusive power-sharing executive — which is what the overwhelming majority of people across the community in Northern Ireland want and what Northern Ireland needs.”
DUP leader Arlene Foster said: “We are disappointed we don’t have an agreement this afternoon, we are going to keep working at it through the summer and hopefully we can come to an agreement later on in the year. We are certainly up for an agreement, we are up for devolution.”
The main dividing line between the two parties has been the issue of the Irish language, with Sinn Fein wanting to enshrine it in law, putting it on the same level as English.
The republican party also wants to see a change in rights for the LGBT community in Northern Ireland, which the DUP currently oppose. Foster called these Sinn Fein’s “excessive demands.”
This is the fifth time that the deadline for talks has been extended and means Westminster deciding on a budget for Northern Ireland remains possible as long as its assembly remains in stalemate.
Brokenshire added: “I will reflect carefully in the coming days on any further steps which may be required to support the continued effective provision of public services in Northern Ireland.”
Talks have been put on hold over the summer due to the assembly’s summer recess, and fears that continuing talks through the marching season around the July 12 would be counterproductive to a successful outcome.
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