Several previous rounds of talks between the DUP and Sinn Féin have, so far, failed to break the political deadlock after the power-sharing executive made up of the DUP and Sinn Féin collapsed in January last year.
If the big two cannot bring themselves to govern then we have to look at alternatives to the current system. One such option would be voluntary coalition. Where people in the government would want rather than forced to be there.
This final failed round of talks has sparked fears that Westminster will impose direct rule, especially after the appointment of Shailesh Vara, former vice chairman of the Conservative Party, as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State of the Northern Ireland Office in the recent cabinet reshuffle.
UUP councilor Christopher Smyth told Express.co.uk: “The UUP is concerned, very much so.
“This party invested so much to bring devolution. That said, political drift cannot continue indefinitely.
“If the big two cannot bring themselves to govern then we have to look at alternatives to the current system. One such option would be voluntary coalition. Where people in the government would want rather than forced to be there.”
SDLP Leader, Colum Eastwood said the collapse in power-sharing talks can’t be allowed to “destroy everything that we have achieved in the peace process”
The then deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness, pulled Sinn Féin out of the coalition after a series of disagreements with the final straw being the DUP’s handling of a scandal over green energy scheme.
The Irish language act has been a major stumbling block, Sinn Féin wants to put Irish on equal par with English, but the DUP is looking to incorporate Ulster Scots language into act.
Prime Minister Theresa May and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar met Sinn Fein and DUP leaders on Monday leading many to believe that a breakthrough was imminent.
Although an agreement was not reached, leaders had indicated they were close to reaching a deal.
Prime Minister Theresa May urged Northern Ireland’s political leaders to make “one final push” to restore the power-sharing executive.
She added: “While differences remain, I think there is the basis of an agreement here” and hoped that an executive could be “up and running very soon”
More to follow…