Easter deadline for Northern Ireland power-sharing talks, UK Government says

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire said the process could not continue 

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The Independent Online

Talks to form a new power-sharing administration in Northern Ireland must not continue past Easter, the British Government has said.

On Thursday James Brokenshire, the Northern Ireland Secretary, said there may need to be "contingencies" put in place if an agreement could not be reached between the parties.

"I need to make decisions over the Easter period to bring legislation forward at Westminster," he said while a visit to Anrim Area Hospital. "That is the timeline I am working to.

"It is that Easter focus that I have on needing for me to take decisions and therefore to introduce legislation there afterwards so that we can get on with the job, get an executive back in place and, equally for me, if we don't see that, to start to make decisions about what further contingencies may need to be put into place."

Northern Ireland has had two elections in the past 12 months; at the end of March, following the initial collapse of talks, Mr Brokenshire said there was no appetite for another round of polls in the province.

If no deal is reached between the parties in the Assembly and further elections are not called, the British government might impose direct rule on the province. This could require legislation at the UK level. 

The Northern Ireland Assembly Executive is currently being run by local civil servants without instruction from politicians. Easter Sunday is on 16 April this year.

At the last election Sinn Fein made major gains with 27 seats compared to 28 for the DUP. The SDLP won 12 seats UUP 10 seats, Alliance 8 seats and Green Party 2 seats.

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