Political uncertainly as talks fail ahead of deadline

Sinn Féin negotiating team announce they are not nominating a speaker or deputy first minister leading to collapse of talks.

SENIOR civil servants are to implement a budget within days after talks to restore devolution failed yesterday as Sinn Féin said they'd "run their course" and they would not be nominating a Deputy First Minister.

Civil servant David Sterling will formally take control of the purse strings on Wednesday and be tasked with implementing a budget to secure public services.

However, what happens after that is less with clear with the Secretary of State James Brokenshire not being drawn on whether a fresh election will be called with the alternative a return to direct rule from Westminster or legislation to extend the talks process.

"Even at this stage I urge political parties to agree to work to form an Executive and provide people here with the strong and stable devolved government that they want", said Mr Brokenshire yesterday.

While the official deadline for an agreement was 4pm today (MON) Sinn Féin has already ruled out any possibility of a last minute deal.

The party's Northern Leader Michelle O'Neil said they had been "clear there could be no return to the status quo".

"The decision by Martin McGuinness to resign was endorsed in the election. The election result has transformed the political landscape. The approach of the unionist parties and the governments must reflect this change.

"The governments and the DUP have failed to step up to the plate", she added.

DUP leader Arlene Foster said yesterday the party "stands ready to continue to discuss how we can secure new arrangements for Northern Ireland".

"To date there was little to suggest that Sinn Féin want to secure agreement", said Mrs Foster.

"At every opportunity they have resisted involving the other parties and consequently no round table discussions were possible during this round of discussions".

The DUP negotiating team did not attend the talks session yesterday as it does not negotiate on Sundays.

Alliance Leader Naomi Long MLA described the collapse of the talks as "extremely disappointing and frustrating".

"The differences are not insurmountable and agreement within the three week timescale was achievable".

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood called on the Secretary of State to "create space for all parties to refresh their outlook on the challenges we face and reach a positive accommodation that allows a restoration of power sharing".

Ulster Unionist chief negotiator Tom Elliott MP said: "The promises of no return to the status quo have been proven empty by a talks 'process' that lacked any structure and had not seen a round table discussion between the five parties as the deadline loomed".


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