Northern Ireland executive still stalled

The leaders of Northern Ireland’s two main political parties say talks on a new power-sharing executive in the British province have broken down and no agreement is expected in the near future.

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Northern Ireland’s political scene has been in crisis since the collapse in January of the coalition mandated under a 1998 peace deal that ended three decades of sectarian Protestant-Catholic violence.

The Irish Catholic nationalist Sinn Fein and the Protestant pro-British Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) have been in talks since a March election to form a new power-sharing government.

The British government, which is overseeing the talks alongside Ireland’s government, warned on Monday it would have to step in to manage public spending in the province, and might call new elections unless a deal was reached soon.

Both parties said on Tuesday that no deal had been agreed and that progress was not expected in the near future.

“Obviously we are disappointed that we don’t have an agreement this afternoon and indeed we’ve been disappointed for quite some time that we haven’t been able to reach an agreement,” DUP leader Arlene Foster told reporters.

“However we are going to keep working at it over the summer and hopefully we can come to an agreement later on in the year.”

Sinn Fein blamed the impasse on British Prime Minister Theresa May, who struck a separate deal last week with the DUP to support her minority government in the British parliament – something they say has compromised the government’s neutrality.

“What this constitutes is a monumental failure on behalf of Theresa May. She has set back decades of work that has been done here throughout the years,” said Sinn Fein’s Northern Ireland leader, Michelle O’Neill.

Britain’s Northern Ireland minister, James Brokenshire, signalled he would be prepared to wait for a deal and the overriding priority was to reach an agreement on restoring the executive.