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Brokenshire: 'No appetite for another election' despite Stormont talks failing

Secretary of State James Brokenshire spoke to the media after yesterday's 4pm deadline passed at Stormont. Picture by Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

Secretary of State James Brokenshire will today update Westminster on the failed talks and plans for resurrecting the process.

He appeared to rule out the prospect of the north returning to polls in the immediate future, saying there was "no appetite for an election".

But Northern Ireland is facing an extended period of uncertainty as the DUP and Sinn Féin blamed each other for a failure to restore devolution.

After the breakdown of post-election talks, the prospect of a power-sharing government being agreed is looking increasingly remote any time soon.

Former first minister Arlene Foster claimed Sinn Féin was "not in agreement-finding mode", while Michelle O'Neill accused the DUP of not having the "right attitude".

A fresh round of negotiations looks inevitable but so far there has been no indication of any format or timescale.

The failure to restore government means that Department of Finance permanent secretary David Sterling takes control of the Stormont purse strings this week, although he has only limited access to funds.

Fears have been expressed about the impact on health, education, justice and the voluntary sector if the stand-off at Stormont continues.

Mr Brokenshire  warned that there was a "short window of opportunity" to strike a deal.

The Tory MP and the British government have not escaped criticism in the wake of the talks collapse, with Ms O'Neill claiming it was "not some sort of independent broker".

Calls are likely to increase in the coming days for an independent chair to help mediate in a fresh round of negotiations.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood called for "immediate refreshed dialogue".

"A new process should take place with an independent chair not only facilitating proceedings but driving the dialogue forward."

Ulster Unionist MP Tom Elliott described the talks process as "shambolic", while Alliance leader Naomi Long said parties now need to "get serious" over striking a deal.

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