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Power-sharing talks collapse at Stormont

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Media captionTheresa May’s visit distracted from Stormont talks, says the DUP’s Simon Hamilton

There is “no current prospect” of a deal to restore power sharing in Northern Ireland, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader has said.

Arlene Foster said the talks failed due to disagreements over a “stand-alone” Irish Language Act.

Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill accused the DUP of having “collapsed” the talks process.

Both parties have been locked in negotiations in a bid to end the 13-month stalemate at Stormont.

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Mrs O’Neill, who is Sinn Féin’s leader at Stormont, said her party had “reached an accommodation with the leadership of the DUP” but claimed that the DUP then “failed to close the deal”.

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Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill accused the DUP of having “collapsed” the talks

She added that Sinn Féin was in contact with both the British and Irish governments and would set out its “considered position” on Thursday.

‘One-sided deal’

In her statement, Mrs Foster called on the Conservative government to set a budget for Northern Ireland and start making policy decisions.

The DUP leader said the latest round of talks have been “unsuccessful” and “significant gaps” remain.

“We do not have a fair and balanced package,” she added.

The DUP would continue to aim for a restoration of devolution, she said, but it would “not accept a one-sided deal”.

Under an agreement struck in Downing Street last summer, the Conservative government relies on the DUP’s support to stay in power at Westminster.

‘Practical steps’

After the DUP and Sinn Féin blamed each other for the failure of the talks, Secretary of State Karen Bradley signalled that a Stormont deal remained possible, saying: “I believe the basis for an accommodation still exists.

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Karen Bradley said the government would have to take decisions

“As the PM said during her visit on Monday, we are ready to bring forward legislation to enable an executive to be formed. We will continue to work with everyone to make sure we deliver this.”

But Mrs Bradley added that the government would “now need to consider practical steps” in the “continued absence” of devolution.

She said “challenging decisions” would have to be taken by the UK government and added that she intends to update parliament next week.

Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar tweeted that he regretted the DUP’s statement and that “power sharing and working together are the only way forward for Northern Ireland”.

Tánaiste (Irish Deputy Prime Minister) Simon Coveney said the DUP’s announcement was “very disappointing”.

“As co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement, the UK and Irish governments have an obligation to uphold and protect the letter and spirit of that agreement.

“We will need to reflect in the coming days on how best to do that,” he added.

‘Whip hand’

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said he was “disappointed” and “angry” at the failure of the talks, and claimed it has left the Good Friday Agreement “in peril”.

He said Northern Ireland parties must resist any return to direct rule from Westminster, with “the DUP having the whip hand”.

Mr Eastwood said Stormont parties must “not allow this moment to be the destruction of all that we have achieved”.

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Colum Eastwood said the SDLP would resist a return to direct rule

“We can’t allow this British government, or this DUP to think that they’re going to govern Northern Ireland on their own – that cannot be…

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