May blows Northern Irish deal 

May blows Northern Irish deal 

There is “no prospect” of a deal to restore power-sharing in Northern Ireland, according to Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Arlene Foster. 

It was now up to the London government to impose a budget on Northern Ireland to allow regional departments to function.

Forster called on Prime Minister Theresa May to reassert direct rule over the six counties after admitting there were still “serious and significant differences” between her party and Sinn Fein, the two largest parties in the province.

Northern Ireland has been without a regional government for 23 months after prolonged talks.

May travelled to Northern Ireland on Monday in an attempt to find an agreement after it was widely reported that a deal was close.

The bungling prime minister had said “one final push” was needed.

Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar cancelled other plans in order to travel to Northern Ireland to try to help broker a deal.

But DUP and Sinn Fein had been unable to reach a compromise over Irish-language legislation, the pro-union Foster said.

Sinn Fein wants a law to boost the legal status of Gaelic, to use it on street signs and in courts but faces DUP opposition.

Bilingual street signs in and around pro-union areas would spark a reaction from unionist activists.

Foster said: “For almost four weeks, we have been engaged in intensive negotiations with Sinn Fein. We have attempted to find a stable and sustainable basis for restoring devolution. Those discussions have been unsuccessful.”

Unionist fears about their Britishness being “hollowed out” with language legislation has reportedly struck a chord with the wider unionist population. The DUP leadership was shocked at the level of popular opposition to any language act.

Foster continued: “Despite our best efforts, serious and significant gaps remain between ourselves and Sinn Fein especially on the issue of the Irish language.

“I have made it consistently clear that unionists will not countenance a standalone or free standing Irish language act. Sinn Fein’s insistence on a standalone Irish language act means that we have reached an impasse.”

Owen Smith, Labour’s Northern Ireland spokesman, said May’s visit was embarrassing.

“Theresa May has been humiliated by the DUP,” the opposition politician said. “She turned up in Belfast on Monday expecting to cut the ribbon on a new deal but the DUP had clearly decided they weren’t prepared to do a deal which would support the Irish language or marriage equality in Northern Ireland. In the 20th year of the Good Friday agreement, Northern Ireland is being badly let down by the Tory-DUP axis.”

 

LGBT-campaigners oppose Arlene Foster. Picture credit: Eurasia Times. 

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