Sat, Sep 02, 2017 - Page 6 News List

DUP warns of ‘speedy’ return to rule by London

NORTHERN IRELAND:Sinn Fein leader Michelle O’Neill said her party was committed to making things work, but set out prerequisites before the party would return

Reuters, BELFAST

Sinn Fein must reach out and compromise if Northern Ireland is to avoid a “speedy” return to direct rule from London, the head of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) said on Thursday.

Irish nationalists Sinn Fein and the DUP have failed to reach an agreement on reforming a power-sharing government since a March election and each has blamed the other for missing repeated deadlines.

Continued failure would force the British government to bypass the regional assembly and revert to direct rule from London for the first time in a decade, a move that could destabilize the political balance in Northern Ireland.

The British and Irish governments, who are facilitating the talks, have warned that failing to reach an agreement would have “profound and serious” implications and limit Northern Ireland’s influence in Brexit negotiations.

“Unless agreement can be found very quickly, then London will be required to take decisions,” Foster said in a speech to supporters at a Belfast hotel.

“Northern Ireland simply cannot continue without democratic oversight and that means the speedy introduction of direct rule if agreement is not reached,” she said.

British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire has indicated he wants a resumption as early as next week to avoid a return to direct rule.

However, no date has been set for talks.

Foster said that a series of “one-sided demands” by Sinn Fein had made progress impossible and that they must move to achieve a breakthrough.

“If we are to have an agreement then there will need to be a willingness on all sides to reach out in order to secure a durable outcome,” she said.

Sinn Fein leader Michelle O’Neill earlier on Thursday said her party was “entirely committed” to making the political institutions work.

However, she set out a series of demands for Sinn Fein to agree to return to government, including the full implementation of earlier agreements between the parties an improved rights for Irish language speakers.

“We need to see the implementation of outstanding agreements and an end to the denial of rights enjoyed by citizens everywhere else on these islands,” she said in a statement.

Foster said the DUP was willing to support “practical measures for the Irish language ... if we can reach a wider agreement on these matters.”

“However, what we cannot and will not do is simply agree to one-sided demands,” she said.

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