Northern Ireland bids to conserve power-sharing deal as direct rule looms

BELFAST (Reuters) – Pro-British unionists and Irish nationalists held last-minute talks on Monday to restore Northern Ireland’s power-sharing federal government ahead of a deadline that would press the region towards direct guideline from London for the first time in a decade.

James Brokenshire, Britain’s Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, gets to a cabinet conference in Downing Street, London September 12, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah Mckay/File Image

If the Democratic Unionist Celebration (DUP) and Irish nationalist Sinn Fein cannot reach agreement on Monday, the British government has stated it will bring in legislation to set a spending plan for Northern Ireland.

That would be a major step towards direct rule from London, which observers have actually cautioned could destabilise a fragile political balance in the British region.

A spokesperson for British Prime Minister Theresa Might said there were “considerable spaces” between the parties but that the federal government did not wish to see a go back to direct rule.

The result of talks is not expected to have an effect on the DUP’s agreement to support Might’s government in the British parliament.

The DUP and Sinn Fein have actually shared power for the previous decade in a system developed following a 1998 peace deal which ended 3 years of violence in the province.

However Sinn Fein in January took out grumbling it was not being dealt with as an equal partner.

Talks between Sinn Fein and the DUP have actually stalled in recent weeks, in big part over propositions to improve the rights of Irish language speakers.

Sinn Fein regional assembly member Conor Murphy on Monday stated an offer might be done but that the DUP had to make concessions.

“If the political organizations are to be sustainable then they must be restored on the basis of equality, rights and regard,” he said in a declaration ahead of the talks.

While the DUP likewise said it desired to see the executive re-established, it required London to bring forward the spending plan “to bring a step of excellent government to Northern Ireland”.

The party will decline “a bad arrangement patched together to unexpectedly suit the schedules of others”, it said in a statement ahead of the talks.

The British government has actually explained that if there is no offer by the end of Monday it will move to pass an annual spending plan for the area to guarantee vital services are moneyed.

If contract is reached, James Brokenshire, Britain’s minister for the region, would go back to London to start the processes needed to form a new Northern Ireland Executive.

Reporting by Amanda Ferguson in Belfast; Writing by Conor Humphries and Michael Holden; Editing by Alison Williams