Deadline nears for Northern Ireland power-sharing deal, direct rule looms

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 30, 2017 4:59 AM

BELFAST (Reuters) - Britain will bring in legislation to set a budget for Northern Ireland if no last-minute deal can be struck on Monday to restore a power-sharing government in the province 10 months after it collapsed.

Northern Ireland has been without a regional administration since January, raising the prospect of direct rule being reimposed from London, potentially destabilizing a delicate political balance in the British province.

Britain's Northern Ireland secretary, James Brokenshire, said this month talks had stalled with the Irish nationalist Sinn Fein party and the pro-British Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) over the rights of Irish language speakers.

Sinn Fein regional assembly member Conor Murphy said a deal could be done but that the DUP had to make concessions.

"A deal in the political talks needs to be a deal for all in our society and not just for the political leaderships of unionism," he said in a statement on Monday. "If the political institutions are to be sustainable then they must be restored on the basis of equality, rights and respect."

If a agreement is reached before Monday's deadline, Brokenshire will return to London to begin the processes required to form a new Northern Ireland Executive, a British government spokesman said last week.

However, if a budget is imposed by London, it would be the closest Northern Ireland has come to a return to direct rule in a decade.

The DUP and Sinn Fein shared power in the previous devolved coalition administration under a system created following a 1998 peace deal which ended three decades of violence in the province.

(Reporting by Amanda Ferguson in Belfast and Michael Holden in London, editing by Elizabeth Piper)