Northern Ireland Secretary grants more time for power-sharing talks

Cheryl Sanders
April 11, 2017

His comments came during an urgent statement from Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire, who warned that a failure to reach a powersharing agreement in the Northern Ireland Executive would have a major impact on public services.

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Sinn Féin finished with 27 seats in the wake of this month's election, which arose after the party called time on the last power-sharing arrangement due to Foster's stance on the "cash for ash" controversy.

He said that in past 24 hours he has spoken to leaders of five main Northern Ireland parties and to the Irish Government.

"We desperately need local political representatives to speak on our behalf if we are to ensure that United Kingdom and European Union negotiators have a proper understanding of Northern Ireland's unique circumstance", the Northern Ireland branch of the Confederation of British Industry said after Brokenshire's statement.

McGuinness, who died on Tuesday from a rare heart condition, had called for Foster to step down temporarily pending the conclusion of a public inquiry into the failed scheme which is expected to cost taxpayers up to half a billion pounds ($625 million, 580 million euros).

No party gained a majority in the subsequent election and talks to form a new coalition executive have so far proved unsuccessful.

"We now have a short window of opportunity to resolve outstanding issues and for an executive to be formed", he said at a press conference outside Stormont House.

Brokenshire has made a decision to give the parties more time, saying there is no appetite for a further election.

"I therefore want to give the House notice that, following the Easter recess, as a minimum it would be my intention to bring forward legislation to set a regional rate to enable local councils to carry out their functions and to provide further assurance around the budget for Northern Ireland".

From tomorrow Northern Ireland's Department for Finance will take responsibility for setting the Stormont budget, which means it will gain immediate control of a sum of money equivalent to 75% of this year's funds.

Lord Dunlop said: "Our focus is on this period ahead, the window of opportunity that the Secretary of State has talked about, and I don't want to speculate about alternatives".

She added: "The government of Northern Ireland is not a game, it is actually very serious and the fact we do not have an executive being formed today is very regrettable".

Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionists have blamed each other for the breakdown of the talks on Sunday night.

"I emphasize that the Good Friday Agreement remains the agreed template for the political process in Northern Ireland".

Northern Ireland needs strong devolved government.

He said he was engaged in the process.

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