Northern Ireland: Government prepared to set Stormont budget as power-sharing talks remain deadlocked

Civil servants in Northern Ireland have been taking spending decisions for more than three months following deadlocked talks to create a new power-sharing executive

The Stormont assembly building Photo: PA

By Agnes Chambre?

04 Jul 2017

Prime minister Theresa May has been urged to get directly involved in talks to re-start power-sharing at Stormont talks after the latest deadline passed without a deal.

Northern Ireland secretary James Brokenshire confirmed yesterday that DUP and Sinn Fein had failed to reach an agreement to form a new executive, despite the cut-off having initially been extended from Thursday last week.

He warned today that “time is running out” and that his patience was wearing thin.

"If no agreement is reached, legislation in Westminster may then be required to give authority for the expenditure of Northern Ireland departments through an appropriations bill. We have not quite reached that point. That point is coming and the lack of a formal budget is not something that can be sustained indefinitely."

Northern Ireland has effectively been run by the civil service since March as the result of political deadlock. Sinn Féin pulled out of power-sharing arrangements with the Democratic Unionist Party in protest over the mishandling of a renewable-heating initiative in January, which led to an election in March that again returned the two as the largest parties in the assembly.

Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Owen Smith led calls for Theresa May to go to Northern Ireland herself in a bid to force through a deal, but Brokenshire insisted May has been “actively involved” in the process

“I would stress that the prime minister has been actively involved throughout this whole process in having these conversations with the party leaders," he said.

“There is continued active engagement. To the extent that if further interventions are required, of course we will always keep that under review to see what will effectively bring about resolution that I know he and I would like to see in place.”

Northern Ireland's executive has been out of action since January, when ten years of power-sharing broke down after a scandal over a renewable heating scheme.


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