Deal To End Northern Ireland Stalemate Falls Apart

Theresa May said parties in Northern Ireland have the basis of an agreement 

  • Irish PM Leo Varadkar said he 'very hopeful' agreement will be done this week 

  • But hopes deal ending 13-month stalemate would be signed off today dashed 

  • It is the first time May has travelled to Northern Ireland to intervene personally  

  • By Kate Ferguson, Political Correspondent For Mailonline and Tim Sculthorpe, Deputy Political Editor For Mailonline

    Published: 19:06 EST, 11 February 2018 | Updated: 15:22 EST, 12 February 2018

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    Theresa May today urged the DUP and Sinn Fein to make 'one final push' to come to a powersharing deal - and said an agreement should be done 'very soon'.

    The Prime Minister said she had 'full and frank conversations' with all five parties holding talks in Stormont and said 'there is the basis of an agreement here'. 

    And in her first visit to Belfast since powersharing collapsed 13 months ago, she said it was now for the main parties to thrash out the details of a deal.

    Speaking outside Stormont today, the PM said: 'I believe it is possible to see the basis of an agreement here.

    'There is the basis of an agreement and it should be possible to see an executive up and running in Northern Ireland very soon.' 

    'We should be able to see an executive up and running very soon.'

    Her comments came after Sinn Fein said 'this is the week' for a deal to be struck while DUP leader Arlene Foster had said the tone of talks had been good. 

    But hopes that a deal would be signed up to today - raised by the Prime Minister's visit to Belfast - were dashed. 

    Theresa May (pictured outside Stromont today) said she has encouraged the DUP and Sinn Fein to make 'one final push' to come to a powersharing deal - and an agreement should be done 'very soon'

    Theresa May (pictured outside Stromont today) said she has encouraged the DUP and Sinn Fein to make 'one final push' to come to a powersharing deal - and an agreement should be done 'very soon'

    The Prime Minister (pictured outside Stormont today) said she had 'full and frank conversations' with all five parties  and said 'there is the basis of an agreement here'

    The Prime Minister (pictured outside Stormont today) said she had 'full and frank conversations' with all five parties and said 'there is the basis of an agreement here'

    The DUP leader Arlene Foster (pictured at Stormont today) said no deal has yet been reached to bring back powersharing in northern Ireland and said  the parties are still in talks to thrash out the details of a deal to end the 13-month stalemate

    The DUP leader Arlene Foster (pictured at Stormont today) said no deal has yet been reached to bring back powersharing in northern Ireland and said  the parties are still in talks to thrash out the details of a deal to end the 13-month stalemate

    Sinn Fein's new President Mary Lou McDonald (pictured, centre in purple) said they are committed to getting a deal, adding: 'This is the week and this is the time to decide.'

    Sinn Fein's new President Mary Lou McDonald (pictured, centre in purple) said they are committed to getting a deal, adding: 'This is the week and this is the time to decide.'

    It is the first time Mrs May has waded into the crisis in Belfast since powersharing collapsed more than a year ago by the resignation of the late Martin McGuinness. 

    She stressed that Westminster stands ready to help the DUP and Sinn Fein put aside their feuding and re-enter a powersharing executive together. 

    The PM said: 'Today I have been meeting the leaders of the main parties involved in the talks and I have urged them to make one final push for the sake of the people here in Northern Ireland.

    'It has been thirteen long months since we last saw devolved government here and I think we are now at the point of where it is time for the locally elected representatives to find a way to work together and to deal with and tackle the many pressing issues facing Northern Ireland.

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    'I have had full and frank conversations with the five parties. I've also met with the Taoiseach.

    'And while some differences remain I believe that it is possible to see the basis of an agreement here. There is the basis of an agreement and it should be possible to see an Executive up and running in Northern Ireland very soon.'

    She said the DUP and Sinn Fein have been 'working very hard' to close the remaining gaps.  

    Meanwhile, both the DUP and Sinn Fein said they are on the cusp of a deal - but it has not yet been agreed.

    Mrs Foster said: 'Good progress has been made and we will continue to work towards more progress.'

    Sinn Fein's new President Mary Lou McDonald said they are committed to getting a deal, adding: 'This is the week and this is the time to decide.'

    Irish PM Leo Varadkar (pictured today) said he held talks with Mrs May and said he is 'very hopeful' the DUP and Sinn Fein will be able to come to an agreement this week.

    Irish PM Leo Varadkar (pictured today) said he held talks with Mrs May and said he is 'very hopeful' the DUP and Sinn Fein will be able to come to an agreement this week.

    She said: 'Be in no doubt that we are serous about functioning powersharing, we are serious about working in good faith with partners.

    'And be in no doubt that we expect the same leadership and political will from our partners in unionism and in the DUP. This is the week and this is the time to decide.'

    But she also revealed that Sinn Fein did not meet directly with the DUP today - only held talks with the Irish and British governments.

    She said: 'Clearly we need to meet, clearly we need to resolve the outstanding issues.'

    Mrs Foster said the tone of the talks had been 'good' and appeared to lay the blame for the impasse with Sinn Fein.

    She said: 'If the public are frustrated at the pace of progress, we all are as well.'

    Sinn Fein quit powersharing demanding Mrs Foster's resignation over a renewable energy scandal. A snap election was held but failed to break the impasse.

    Westminster has been stalling over reimposing direct rule for the first time in more than 10 years in the hope the two sides would make an agreement. 

    Theresa May (pictured at the Bombardier factory in Belfast today) has flown to Northern Ireland fuelling speculation a deal to finally restore the powersharing government is imminent

    Theresa May (pictured at the Bombardier factory in Belfast today) has flown to Northern Ireland fuelling speculation a deal to finally restore the powersharing government is imminent

    Mrs May visited Bombardier today after the company was victorious in a trade dispute with a US rival 

    Mrs May visited Bombardier today after the company was victorious in a trade dispute with a US rival 

    Mrs May was greeted by her Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley at Stormont today ahead of the meetings to try and break the deadlock on devolution 

    Mrs May was greeted by her Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley at Stormont today ahead of the meetings to try and break the deadlock on devolution 

    Irish PM Leo Varadkar said he held talks with Mrs May and said he is 'very hopeful' the DUP and Sinn Fein will be able to come to an agreement this week.

    He insisted it had not been a wasted trip, adding: 'We have to be patient - if there is going to be an executive established there has to be an agreement between the DUP and Sinn Fein.'

    Mr Varadkar said he and Mrs May also spoke about Brexit and reaffirmed their commitment to doing a free trade and customs deal between Ireland and the UK.

    Before heading to Stormont for the talks, Mrs May visited Bombardier's Belfast factory. 

    The Canadian-owned plane manufacturer won a major trade dispute with a US rival last month, protecting thousands of Northern Irish jobs.  

    She met staff and management at Bombardier to discuss the Government's commitment to back business success and opportunity in Northern Ireland.

    The region has been without a functioning government since January 2017 and several rounds of talks to resolve the crisis have failed. However, speculation has been growing that a deal between Sinn Fein and the DUP is close.

    On Saturday, Sinn Fein's Northern Ireland leader Michelle O'Neill said talks are likely to draw to a close this week.

    SDLP leader Colum Eastwood warned that any deal to restore powersharing must end the cycle of political stand-off between Sinn Fein and the DUP.

    Mr Eastwood said it is not enough to simply form a new executive.

    'The real change necessary is an end to the cycle of two parties who have proved themselves very good at the art of political stand-off, but very bad at the responsibility of government.

    'That is the joint DUP/Sinn Fein status quo that must now end.'

    It is the first time Mrs May has waded into the crisis in Belfast since powersharing collapsed more than a year ago by the resignation of the late Martin McGuinness (file image). Mr McGuinness quit as deputy first minister just months before dying from a rare heart condition 

    It is the first time Mrs May has waded into the crisis in Belfast since powersharing collapsed more than a year ago by the resignation of the late Martin McGuinness (file image). Mr McGuinness quit as deputy first minister just months before dying from a rare heart condition 

    Mr Eastwood added that when powersharing is restored, focus must return immediately to the threat posed by Brexit, the economy and the crises in the health service and school budgets.

    The DUP/Sinn Fein-led coalition imploded last January amid a row over a botched green energy scheme.

    That rift subsequently widened to take in long-running disputes over culture, social issues and legacy.

    The main sticking point preventing the restoration of an Executive is the Irish language.

    Sinn Fein wants a stand-alone piece of legislation to protect speakers – an Irish Language Act – but the DUP has long insisted it would only countenance new laws if they also incorporate other cultures, such as Ulster Scots.

    400 days of stalemate: How has the crisis in Northern Ireland unfolded?

    Here is a timeline of some of the key events in the 13-month political impasse.

    January 2017: 

    Stormont's Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness resigns in protest over DUP First Minister Arlene Foster's handling of a botched green energy scheme that cost £500 million.

    The executive falls a week later and a snap election is called. 

    Mr McGuinness says he will not stand for re-election. Michelle O'Neill is the new leader of Sinn Fein at Stormont.

    February

    More traditional disputes start to dominate the election campaign - such as Irish language, legacy and the region's ban on same-sex marriage. 

    March

    Sinn Fein makes major gains in the snap election, cutting a 10-seat gap from the DUP to one. The long-standing unionist majority within the Assembly goes.

    Mr McGuinness dies.

    A deadline to form a new executive within three weeks of the election falls as the parties fail to agree a deal.

    April

    Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire sets a new deadline - for mid-April. The deadline is Good Friday.

    The faltering talks do not even reach Good Friday. The process is adjourned for the Easter holidays with no deal.

    May

    Mr Brokenshire sets a third deadline for mid-May, but it goes up in smoke when Theresa May calls a snap election. Talks are paused for the campaign, and a new deadline June 29 set.

    June

    The DUP emerges as kingmaker for Mrs May's minority government - sparking claims No10 is no longer impartial.

    Talks flounder, the June 29 deadline is not met and new one of July 3 set. 

    July

    July 3 comes and goes.

    October

    Yet another deadline is pencilled in by Mr Brokenshire - October 29. Talks resume but a deal does not materialise.

    November

    Mr Brokenshire sets Stormont's 2017/18 budget at Westminster.

    January 2018 

    Mr Brokenshire leaves the government due to ill health. His successor Karen Bradley earmarks February 7 as a 'milestone' rather than a deadline.

    February

    Theresa May and Irish PM Leo Varadkar travel to Stormont fuelling hopes that a deal is about to be done. But the DUP collapse the talks. 

    Source : http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5379383/Theresa-May-heading-Belfast-amid-powersharing-deal-speculation.html

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