Published: Wed, June 28, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Northern Ireland in last-minute talks for power-sharing deal

Northern Ireland in last-minute talks for power-sharing deal

Sinn Féin wants the act to focus exclusively on the rights of Irish speakers and putting Gaelic on a par in law with English.

Ulster Unionist (UUP) leader Robin Swann said his party would not provide "cover" for the DUP if it signed up to an Irish Language Act.

Mrs Foster was forced from office in January when Sinn Fein's then deputy first minister, the late Martin McGuinness, quit in protest at the DUP's handling of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) - a scheme that left the administration facing a 556 million euro (£490 million) overspend.

"The DUP have not moved on any of the substantive issues which sit at the heart of this crisis", he said.

Failure to strike a powersharing deal in Northern Ireland would have "profound and serious" implications, the British Government has warned.

The parties have until 4pm on Thursday to restore a devolved executive or Northern Ireland faces the prospect of a return of direct rule from London. "Obviously there would be profound and serious implications in that context", James Brokenshire told parliament.

He said he would work with all parties to see that the issues were considered carefully.

In a snap Stormont election, the Sinn Fein vote surged but parties failed to restore devolution in the six-week timeframe.

While negotiations involve the five main Northern Ireland parties and the United Kingdom and Irish governments, their fate hinges on whether the two biggest parties, the DUP and Sinn Fein, can resolve their differences.

Sinn Féin's John O'Dowd said he is not sure whether a deal can be struck.

Senior DUP negotiator Edwin Poots said his party was ready to re-establish devolved government on Thursday and continue negotiations.

Leader Robin Swann said: "The Irish Language Act isn't the final part that needs to be solved here, .[there is] the establishment of how we deal with legacy, the establishment of the historical investigations unit, how we look after our pensioners, young people how we get a budget and budget process up and running again".

MLA Declan Kearney said: "They haven't moved on ending the denial of rights to Irish speakers". Sinn Féin have identified language as their highest priority.

For the moment, the signs are all five parties want to find a solution.

Ms Thewliss wanted to know how the Conservative government could act with impartiality between unionists and Irish nationalists in Northern Ireland, given its dependence on the support of the DUP.

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