Window closing on power-sharing in Northern Ireland: minister

Source: Xinhua| 2017-09-05 03:24:14|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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LONDON, Sept. 4 (Xinhua) -- A window of opportunity to enable devolved power-sharing government in Belfast to be revived is closing, the Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire said Monday night.

Brokenshire gave his grim outlook after spending a day at Stormont, meeting leaders of political parties in Northern Ireland.

The devolved assembly, created as part of a peace formula that ended three decades of troubles in Northern Ireland, has not meant since the power sharing agreement between the two main parties collapsed at the start of this year.

The hope had been the two parties, pro-republican Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) would spend the summer months finding a way of ending the deadlock.

Following a day of talks with all of the party leaders, Brokenshire said he could be forced to legislate for a budget to ensure government funded departments continue to function.

"I've continued to urge them to find a way to restore an executive. Devolved government is in the best interest of everyone. All party leaders have made clear that they agree that there is a need for an executive to be formed to make key decisions for the benefit of all the people of Northern Ireland," he told journalists.

"Now is the time to give effect to this desire through political leadership on all sides."

More bilateral meetings will take place this week before the start of structured multiparty talks, added Brokenshire.

He said the window of opportunity to restore devolution and to form an executive is closing rapidly as we move further into the fall, adding: "I cannot ignore the growing concern in the wider community about the impact that the current political impasse is having on the local economy and on the delivery of key public services."

Brokenshire may be forced to seek direct rule from Westminster if the two main parties are unable to end their differences.

Ahead of today's talks, Sinn Fein leader Michelle O'Neill said a deal could be done in days with the right attitude and reiterated calls for progress on a range of cultural issues.

The DUP chief Arlene Foster said the discussions should be over quickly, but she was critical of Sinn Fein, according to the Belfast Telegraph newspaper.

The Telegraph quoted Foster saying Sinn Fein had reacted "with breakneck speed to reject her suggestion that a ministerial executive at Stormont be restored alongside a parallel process dealing with cultural issues".