Political news

Stormont talks' deadline extended until after general election

 Parties will be given three weeks after the June 8 election to reach a deal, sources claim
Deborah McAleese, Press Association

Crisis talks at Stormont aimed at restoring powersharing are to be extended to after the general election.

Sources involved in the negotiations have said parties will be given three weeks after the June 8 election to reach a deal.

The British Government is to publish legislation to deal with rates and budget matters on Friday.

Earlier Sinn Féin had accused the British Government of wanting powersharing in Northern Ireland to fail.

Michelle O'Neill said the British Prime Minister does not want a Stormont Executive that will stand against Brexit.

She made her comments following a meeting with Secretary of State James Brokenshire who is holding talks with the main political parties aimed at restoring powersharing.

Meetings with Sinn Féin and the SDLP were particularly tense as both parties are angry at Theresa May's decision to call a general election in the middle of the Stormont stalemate.

"There is a growing belief out there among the wider nationalist community that the government don't want a powersharing executive to work here," Ms O'Neill said.

"They don't want an executive that is going to take a firm stand against Brexit because obviously the majority of people here voted to remain in the European Union." 

She added: "So on June 8 the public will have the opportunity to have their say and they have to make their message clear to Theresa May that we are not for Brexit, we are not for a border and we are not for Tory cuts."

Ms O'Neill said that Sinn Féin and the public want the Stormont institutions restored and again accused the prime minister of showing a "blatant disregard to the people of the north".

On Friday Mr Brokenshire is set to publish emergency legislation to clear the way for the collection of rates.

It is one of a number of planned contingency moves to deal with pressures caused by the ongoing political crisis.

If a deal cannot be reached at Stormont by early May, Mr Brokenshire will have to decide to call another assembly election or pause the process until after the general election.

Stormont's parties have yet to reach agreement on forming an executive six weeks after the assembly election.

The two largest parties and former powersharing partners, the DUP and Sinn Féin, have spent weeks blaming each for the failure to restore the institutions.

Long-running rows over a proposed Irish language act and deep divisions over how to deal with the legacy of the Troubles are holding up a deal.

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