Election looming as Stormont collapses

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Election looming as Stormont collapses thumbnailSinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill carrying the coffin of party colleague Martin McGuinness

DESPITE voting just four weeks ago, Mid-Ulster could soon be returning to the ballot box following a breakdown in the latest Stormont cross-party talks.
The deadline for restoring powersharing in Northern Ireland ran out at 4pm yesterday (Monday) and Northern Ireland Secretary of State, James Brokenshire was due to make a statement on where to go from here.
He must call another election "within a reasonable period" although he could also consider direct rule.
Or the Secretary of State could extend the current talks.
Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill confirmed that her party would not nominate a deputy First Minister as things stand, stating the talks process has "come to the end of the road".
“Previous agreeements need to be implemented," she said. "We came at the negotiations with the right attitude, wanting to make the institutions work; wanting to deliver for all citizens."
However, her DUP counterpart, Arlene Foster, suggested that the negotiations were doomed from the start.
"Negotiations will only ever be successful when parties are prepared to be flexible in order to secure outcomes," she said.
"To date there was little to suggest that Sinn Fein want to secure agreement.
"At every opportunity they have resisted involving the other parties and consequently no round table discussions were possible during this round of discussions."
Sinn Fein have been seeking movement on issues such as an Irish Language Act and progress on funding for the investigation of legacy issues.
The party also made it clear it would not go into government with Arlene Foster until a public enquiry into the RHI scheme is concluded.
The breakdown in talks has been roundly criticised by other parties.
UUP MP Tom Elliott has warned that Northern Ireland now faces a "period of prolonged drift".
"I understand the Secretary of State took the attitude that the blockages to progress were devolved matters and therefore allowed the DUP and Sinn Féin to take the lead, with the  Government offering support," he said.
"It looks like HM Government will now have to take the lead and that is a further indictment of the lead parties at Stormont."
The SDLP's Patsy McGlone has warned that the absence of an Executive will delay health care reforms as without the accountability of a Minister a 'sticking plaster' approach will be adopted.


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