Fresh crisis at Stormont as power sharing talks collapse

Sinn Fein's President Gerry Adams and Northern Ireland leader Michelle O'Neill. Picture: Getty Images
Sinn Fein's President Gerry Adams and Northern Ireland leader Michelle O'Neill. Picture: Getty Images
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Sinn Fein last night said the talks process aimed at restoring devolution in Northern Ireland had run its course, raising the prospect of direct rule from Westminster.

Michelle O’Neill, Sinn Fein’s leader in Northern Ireland, said the republican party would not be nominating a deputy first minister today. The development is likely to trigger another crisis at Stormont.

However, President Gerry Adams said he believed the conditions to go back into power-sharing would be achieved in the time ahead.

Mrs O’Neill said: “Today we have come to the end of the road.”

Today is the deadline for nominating a first and deputy first minister at Stormont. If no agreement is reached, Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire is obliged to intervene. Fresh elections or direct rule from Westminster could be imposed.

Mrs O’Neill added: “The talks process has run its course and Sinn Fein will not be nominating for the position of speaker or for the executive office.”

Power-sharing collapsed in January after a row over a botched green energy scheme predicted to cost the taxpayer up to half a billion pounds.

Sinn Fein has said it will not share power with the Democratic Unionists’ leader Arlene Foster as first minister until a public inquiry into the renewable heat incentive (RHI) is concluded.

Republicans have also been seeking movement on issues such as an Irish language act giving the tongue official status in Northern Ireland.

They also want to see progress on legacy funding for Northern Ireland conflict victims waiting up to 45 years for answers on how their loved ones died.

Mr Brokenshire is chairing talks in Belfast and said they had a duty to victims to address past violence which left 3,637 dead and countless more injured.

The five main parties have until 4pm today to resolve differences or face another snap election.

Nationalist SDLP leader Colum Eastwood blamed the impasse on an unwillingness to find creative compromise on key elements of former agreements.

Mr Brokenshire spoke to Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday afternoon.

He said that creating a functioning ministerial executive was a priority for the UK government.

“This is the necessary first step to addressing the issues of greatest public concern, health, education and other public services in Northern Ireland,” he said.