Northern Ireland news

British government acknowledges 'urgent need' to resolve Stormont deadlock

Arlene Foster and DUP colleagues mark 589 days since the collapse of power-sharing by unveiling a 'Sinn Féin - End Your Boycott' banner. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire

The British government has acknowledged the deep frustration of the public in the north as it reached an unwanted milestone for non-governance.

On Tuesday the north notched up 589 days since the power-sharing executive collapsed – passing Belgium for the world's longest peacetime period without a properly functioning government.

While the north will avoid an embarrassing entry in the Guinness Book of World Records – the Stormont impasse was ruled ineligible as it only relates to a devolved administration – the day was marked by a series of public protests.

A #wedeservebetter rally planned for Belfast City Hall last night was postponed because of the Primark fire.

Earlier at Stormont, the DUP marked the milestone by unfurling a banner calling on Sinn Féin to end its "boycott" on governing.

Party leader Arlene Foster said she shared the frustration of the wider public.

"There is only one problem party and let's call it out – that's Sinn Féin," she said. "And they need to end their boycott here in Northern Ireland."

The DUP leader said she shared the public's frustrations.

"So it's time to get back into government – long past the time to get back into government," she said.

Mrs Foster repeated her call for government to be restored while a parallel process to resolve outstanding issues is run.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O’Neill said the political institutions would only enjoy public confidence if they were based on the principles of the Good Friday Agreement.

She accused the DUP of "blockading people's rights" and said the public was "outraged at the series of financial scandals", including the botched RHI scheme.

"Sinn Féin has worked since then to restore political institutions, which deliver for all our citizens on the basis of equality and rights and bringing to an end the DUP’s financial scandals and disrespect," she said.

"We had an agreement in February which paved the way for the re-establishment of the executive, but the DUP reneged on this agreement and collapsed the political talks."

A spokeswoman for Secretary of State Karen Bradley said: "The secretary of state is acutely aware of the deep frustration and difficulties faced by the people of Northern Ireland and the urgent need to resolve the current impasse.

"She shares the firm view that the current situation cannot be allowed to continue and is working on options to ensure the good governance of Northern Ireland.

"The UK government's priority is to secure a basis for political talks and re-establish a locally elected, democratically accountable devolved government at the earliest opportunity.

"In the absence of an executive, the secretary of state continues to take the necessary decisions to protect the interests of Northern Ireland and ensure stable public finances, demonstrated by the recent Budget Act."


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