British Prime Minister Theresa May and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar met in Belfast today in what is seen by some to be the final attempt to restore the Northern Irish government since it broke down in January of last year. Both the DUP and Sinn Féin, the parties negotiating to form a government, noted progress but the DUP warned that there was no deal between the parties at present.
Agreement within reach?
Prime Minister May urged the parties to “make one final push for the sake of the people of Northern Ireland.” She called on the local representatives to work together and tackle the pressing issues facing Northern Ireland.
“I believe that it is possible to see the basis of an agreement here. There is the basis of an agreement. It should be possible to see an Executive up and running in Northern Ireland very soon,” she said.
DUP leader Arelene Foster pointed out that there was no deal between the parties yet, but “very good” progress had been made towards one, and that the DUP was fully committed to devolution.
Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD said that an agreement is possible and desirable, and that they “don’t believe that there is anything now insurmountable to resolve.”
Over a year since the collapse of the Exeuctive
The government collapsed more than a year ago in January 2017 after a renewable energy scandal. Negotiations have been on-and-off since the Assembly Election of March 2017, the result of which being that Sinn Féin only have one less seat than the DUP.
Issues such as an Irish Language Act, same-sex marriage and Brexit have caused tensions at various points in the negotiations.
Arlene Foster previously called for direct rule from Westminster if the final attempts at forming a government failed.