Minister Simon Coveney. RollingNews.ie photo
By Irish Echo Staff
Today was the deadline for the restoration of power sharing in Northern Ireland.
The deadline wasn’t met.
But political deadlines tend to be more malleable than journalistic ones, hence the announcement by the British government that the talks, at Stormont Castle, will be extended until Monday, July 3.
"We are now allowing the parties space to continue the discussions," said a British government spokeswoman.
According to reports, Northern Ireland Secretary of State, James Brokenshire, will make a statement to the House of Commons on Monday outlining the British government's intentions going forward.
In the absence of agreement, the options open to Mr. Brokenshire include setting another deadline for the talks process, calling a second snap Assembly election, or re-imposing some form of direct rule from London, the Irish Independent reported.
If a deal was to materialize over the weekend, London could pass legislation to retrospectively change Thursday's missed deadline to enable a new executive to be formed without recourse to another election, the report stated.
The talks have seen Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionists at loggerheads over several issues deemed critical for a return of the North’s governing Executive.
One issuing sharply dividing the two parties concerns a proposed Irish Language Act.
The extension of the talks would appear to indicate that the two parties have made at least some progress.
Secretary of State Brokensire confirmed that a number of issues remained outstanding.
"I believe a resolution can be found. And I'm urging the parties to continue focusing all of their efforts on achieving this.
"The UK government will work with the parties toward their critical objective of forming an executive. But I've made clear to party leaders that it is for them to reach agreement," said.
Irish Foreign minister Simon Coveney said in a statement: “After the last three days of intensive negotiation, I am encouraged that there continues to be real engagement between the parties.
“Significant progress has been made, although there are still gaps to be bridged on a number of key issues.
“Like the Secretary of State, I believe that an agreement is still within reach, an agreement that would allow a power-sharing Executive to be formed on a sustainable basis.
“We continue to remain focused on reaching that agreement and so talks are continuing. It is the successful outcome of this process that matters.
“All parties are committed to the successful operation of all of the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement and everyone is convinced that devolution is the best way to deliver for all of the people of Northern Ireland.
“With courage and goodwill this can be achieved and everyone here will now continue to focus on delivering that positive outcome.”