Northern Ireland budget bill paves way for direct rule
Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams admits power-sharing talks have failed
Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire is preparing to impose direct rule of the province from Westminster by announcing plans for an temporary budget after almost a year of deadlock at Stormont.
Northern Ireland has been without a devolved administration since February, when Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party were unable to reach agreement to establish an executive.
After yet another deadline passed on Wednesday, Sinn Fein’s president Gerry Adams admitted negotiations had “ended in failure”. The party’s leader at Stormont, Michelle O’Neill, said her party had tried to be “flexible”, but “endless talks without conclusion are not sustainable”.
The biggest sticking point has been the status of the Irish language in Northern Ireland. Republicans want it to be enshrined in law on equal terms with English but this has been a red line unionists have been unwilling to cross.
While he insisted this was not a return to direct rule from Westminster, Brokenshire said he had been forced to introduce a budget bill to prevent Northern Ireland “running out of resources”. He added that he will be ready to withdraw the budget bill if an executive is formed before December.
The DUP has said it wants the Government to press ahead with its budget plan, “but Sinn Fein has warned that doing so would force an end to the talks”, says the BBC.
Complicating the matter further is the Government’s £1bn confidence and supply arrangement with the DUP, which some claim breaks the UK's Good Friday peace agreement promise to remain neutral.