Power-sharing talks to continue today after deadline extended again
TALKS at Stormont will continue today as the two largest parties again missed another British government-imposed deadline to restore power-sharing.
Discussions between the DUP and Sinn Féin continued until late last night but with no signs of a breakthrough on key sticking points including a standalone Irish language act.
The talks will resume this morning and could continue into tomorrow as politicians aimed to break the 10-month deadlock.
Secretary of State James Brokenshire had warned both parties that unless there was a breakthrough last night Westminster would have to legislate for a budget.
However that deadline appeared to have been relaxed to allow the discussions to continue.
Mr Brokenshire and the Republic's foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney held meetings with the parties throughout yesterday.
And Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams, along with senior party members Mary Lou McDonald and Pearse Doherty, joined their colleagues' negotiating team.
Earlier, British Prime Minister Theresa May's official spokesman said there were "still significant gaps" between the parties.
He said Mr Brokenshire would update Parliament on the talks later this week.
"We continue to work with the parties on trying to overcome the differences between them and to restore devolved government, which is in the interests of all communities in Northern Ireland," he said.
He said the British government wanted power-sharing to be restored but time was running out.
"James Brokenshire has been clear that the latest we can practically introduce legislation to enable the executive's formation would be this week in order for it to be in time for a new executive to set a budget," he said.
Before the talks resumed yesterday, the DUP said it would not accept "a bad agreement cobbled together to suddenly suit the timetables of others".
Sinn Féin's Conor Murphy said while a deal could still be done it "needs to be a deal for all in our society and not just for the political leaderships of unionism".
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said his party will not accept direct rule from Westminster but only joint rule from both London and Dublin.
"It would be a significant and serious breach of our political accommodation in the North and therefore must not be the automatic and the only fall-back option," he said.
Meanwhile, Alliance Party leader Naomi Long said MLAs should face a 30% pay cut if a deal to restore devolution is not agreed this week.
"There was a previous assessment that about 70% of what an MLA does is outside the assembly and about 30% is in legislation," she said.
"I think it's about time that the salary was readjusted, at the very least, to reflect that."