World, Europe

Parties resume N. Ireland power-sharing talks

British Secretary of Northern Ireland Julian Smith says it is now time to restore devolution

Ahmet Gurhan Kartal   | 16.12.2019
Parties resume N. Ireland power-sharing talks

LONDON

If the talks over forming a new executive body in Northern Ireland fail this time around, a new election will be called, Britain’s secretary of state for Northern Ireland warned on Monday.

After meeting with representatives of Northern Irish parties over new negotiations to form a new devolved government in the U.K. region, Julian Smith said "it is now moment to restore devolution."

He said that he is obliged to call a fresh assembly election if a deal is not reached by January 13.

Following Sunday's talks with various party leaders, Smith tweeted: "Good calls with all five party leaders this morning. Look forward to starting positive process tomorrow to get Stormont back up and running."

A series of round table talks are planned for the rest of the week. The meetings will be attended by local parties, Smith and Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney.

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said the talks was at a "crucial and pivotal moment," while Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Irene Foster was saying she hoped an assembly would be formed at the beginning of the year.

The DUP will "enter the talks in a spirit of looking to find accommodation," Foster said.

Since the March 2017 legislative assembly election, Irish nationalists of the Sinn Fein party and pro-British unionists under the DUP have been unable to find common ground on divisive issues such as the introduction of an Irish language act and legacy issues inherited from decades of violence popularly known as “The Troubles”.

The previous local administration collapsed in January 2017 with the resignation of Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness over a botched energy saving deal. McGuinness died shortly after and was given a state funeral.

The DUP lost support in the March 2017 election, but managed to remain the biggest party with a single-seat margin in the Northern Ireland Assembly over Sinn Fein.

But the DUP performed strongly in a U.K. general election in June 2017. In an unprecedented political move, it has become a vital source of support for the U.K.’s then-Prime Minister Theresa May after she lost the majority in the House of Commons.

In the December UK elections, both the DUP and Sinn Fein lost political ground slightly after their votes dropped by more than 5% each

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