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Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill: Time 'running out' for DUP deal

Sinn Féin's northern leader Michelle O'Neill

SINN Féin's Michelle O'Neill has said time is running out for her party and the DUP to reach a deal to restore power-sharing at Stormont.

The party's northern leader said they were reaching a "very critical period", but an agreement was still possible "if the political will is there".

However, Ms O'Neill also warned that the DUP's relationship with the Conservatives was making efforts to revive devolution more difficult.

Speaking at Stormont, she said: "I think we're quickly running out of time. I mean, we are now on the fourth phase of negotiations.

"We come at this with wanting to make it work. We want to be in here. I want to pick our government departments. We want to be tackling the issues of public services.

"We are clearly coming to a very critical period, but as I have always said this can be done in a number of days if the political will is there."

DUP leader Arlene Foster said on Tuesday that talks were "coming to the end game" and estimated they would continue for "a week to 10 days at the most".

In a statement later yesterday, Ms O'Neill accused the DUP of "handing the Tories a blank cheque" to continue with "cuts and austerity".

She said her party "want a sustainable executive" but the DUP's actions would "make that task all the more difficult".

Meanwhile, Ireland's Catholic bishops have urged politicians to "prioritise the common good over all other concerns".

The north's political situation was discussed in Maynooth during the Autumn 2017 General Meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference, which concluded yesterday evening.

In a statement, the Church said the bishops had "discussed the prevailing deadlock in talks amongst the political parties and the consequential threat that this vacuum is posing for the peace process".

"Bishops expressed concern that local political decisions in the areas of education and health are currently being postponed and that this delay is causing hardship in people's lives, with the weakest suffering most.

"Bishops encouraged political leaders to prioritise the common good over all other concerns in order to inspire hope, once again, in the ability of politics to deliver positive change for our society."

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