Northern Ireland talks collapse as DUP quit Stormont negotiations over Irish language plan

Written by John Ashmore and Tom Freeman on 15 February 2018 in News

DUP leader Arlene Foster asks Westminster to take control of the Northern Irish assembly after talk break down

Theresa May and Arlene Foster - Dominic Lipinski/PA

Hopes of establishing a new executive in Northern Ireland have been dashed after DUP leader Arlene Foster pulled her party out of cross-party talks.

It means the 13-month wait for a political settlement will continue, with Westminster now charged with making decisions on public services in the province.

Foster said there was little immediate prospect of restoring a power-sharing arrangement after she announced talks with Sinn Fein had been “unsuccessful”.

It was "incumbent" on the UK Government to take control of the functions of the Assembly, she added.

She said “serious and significant gaps” remained between the two parties, especially over an Irish Language Act.

The news is embarrassing for Theresa May, who visited Northern Ireland earlier this week and urged the parties to make "one final push" to form an executive.

A break down in the Good Friday Agreement will have complications for Brexit negotiations as the Irish Government has the backing of the other EU countries.

Foster said the parties had reached an "impasse" over Sinn Fein's insistence on a free standing Irish Language Act.

“As far back as last summer, I outlined my party’s willingness to reach an accommodation on language and cultural issues,” she said in a statement this afternoon.
“However, I indicated that any such accommodation must be fair, balanced and capable of commanding support on all sides of our community. At the moment, we do not have a fair and balanced package.”

She said she respected the Irish language and those that spoke it, but cultural representation needed to be a “two-way street”.

In a move that will further complicate the situation for the Prime Minister, Foster called on the Government to set a budget as  “everyone in Northern Ireland has been sitting in limbo for too long”.

“Restoring a sustainable and fully functioning devolved government will remain our goal but we will not accept a one-sided deal,” Ms Foster added.

“Any agreement to restore the Executive must be on a sensible basis. We cannot and will not be held to ransom by those who have refused to form an Executive for over thirteen months."

Sinn Féin said it would set out its position today but accused the DUP of "failing to close" on an agreement.

Irish PM Leo Varadkar said he "regretted" the decision.


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