Sinn Féin hint at 'decisive' last ditch negotiations

BUDGET DECISIONS: Substantive talks aimed at restoring devolution will start today, secretary of state Karen Bradley has announced with the SDLP calling on Simon Coveney, right, and the Republic’s government to play a more proactive role

As 'substantive' talks begin this week, in a last ditch attempt to restore power sharing, Sinn Féin have hinted that this being the last ditch 'decisive' stage in the process.

Talks will begin today involving Stormont's five main parties, with both the British and Irish government's saying they hope to bring a new 'dynamic' to the negotiations.

Secretary of state Karen Bradley had originally hinted that Wednesday would be a 'milestone' when she would update parliament on progress, but has now said that will not be the case.

Sinn Féin vice president Michelle O'Neill has previously stressed the party will not go back to endless talks saying "we can't keep going around the hamster wheel".

Sources within the party have stressed this week is 'make or break' in regards to the talks process, hinting if there is no movement on unresolved issues they will walk away from the negotiations at this time.

It comes as former DUP special advisor Richard Bullick said not even the late Dr Paisley could convince unionists to compromise on a stand alone Irish language act in the current climate.

Speaking to the University Times, the former SDAP said Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness "talked far more about football" than they ever talked about an Irish language act.

"That's not to say there are not solutions that involve legislation, in relation to the Irish language ... but I don't see how the DUP could sell the presentation around an Irish Language Act.

"I don't think anybody, at the moment, in the present political environment in the DUP, even if Dr Paisley was leader, could carry off an Irish Language Act", he added.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said last night both the British and Irish governments "need to wake up to the political reality that they are not bystanders in our politics".

"Their job is not alone to be facilitators of these talks. Their job is to be forceful in finally driving these negotiations to a conclusion", he said.

Alliance Deputy Leader Stephen Farry MLA also warned "a perfect storm" of political instability is holding back reforms happening elsewhere and threatening economic growth.

"Budget decisions over the coming weeks will likely see health and education protected, with considerable inefficiencies not being sufficiently challenged, leaving other aspects of the public services to face disproportionate cuts.

"There is a real danger this prolonging economic impasse is doing real damage to our long-term economic prospects.

"Northern Ireland is already at a lower base, and our prospects of catching up and even overtaking our competitor regions will become even more challenging", he added.

Meanwhile, speaking to The Andrew Marr show outgoing Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said he would like to see Jeremy Corbyn as the next Prime Minister.

"I think Jeremy is an outstanding politician and I hope my endorsement of him is not used against him in the time ahead", he said

Mr Adams also reiterated his position that Northern Ireland should enjoy special status within the EU after Brexit.

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