Taoiseach and British Prime Minister join Stormont talks in Belfast

A deal between Sinn Féin and the DUP looks closer after a breakthrough last week

Taoiseach and British Prime Minister join Stormont talks in Belfast

File photo | The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Liberty Hall, Dublin, 25-11-2017. Image: Artur Widak

Updated 13:50

It is unlikely a power-sharing deal for Northern Ireland will be decided today.

Leo Varadkar and Teresa May have joined talks in Belfast as efforts resume to restore a devolved government at Stormont today.

While a deal between Sinn Fein and the DUP is imminent, there's speculation no announcements will be made today.

Kevin Doyle, Group Political Editor with Independent News and Media, says the signals are good but we might have to wait a little longer:

"I don't think it will be today," he said. "The signals are that it is more or less done but there is still a little bit of work to be done."

"I also get the sense that perhaps the DUP and Sinn Féin would not like Leo Varadkar and Theresa May to come in and steal their moment.

"They have waited this long and I think they will wait a few more days.

"The signals are good; people up in Belfast saying it is pretty much a done deal but they just need to sort out the last few bits."

Breakthrough

This morning, a Government spokesperson said the two leaders will “assess the state of play in the negotiations to restore the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly.”

"The Taoiseach will use his visit to encourage the parties to reach an agreement so that functioning institutions can commence work again in the interests of the people of Northern Ireland.

"The government has consistently said that the restoration of the institutions is essential in the context of the Good Friday Agreement and that it will continue to work very closely with the British government to support the northern parties to achieve this outcome."

Meeting

It is the first time the two leaders have met in Northern Ireland and Mr Varadkar has warned that it may be years before the Executive is re-established if this round of negotiations fails.

In a statement, Downing Street said Theresa May will “take part in a series of meetings” with all the political parties and “encourage them to reach a resolution for the benefit of the people of Northern Ireland.”

The statement said she will also “remind the parties of the many pressing issues facing Northern Ireland and restate her strong belief that a fully functioning Executive… is the best way to serve the interest of the whole community."

Irish language

Last week, significant progress was made on the contentious issue of Irish language legislation.

There is now hopes a deal to resume power sharing could be done as early as this week.

The British Prime Minister will say they are ready to introduce legislation to do that as soon as possible following any deal.

Mary Lou McDonald will also attend the talks today for the first time as leader of Sinn Féin.

Last month, the new Northern Ireland Secretary, Karen Bradley MP, told the parties time was short but "one last opportunity to reach agreement" remained.

Without an agreement on devolved government soon, Northern Ireland faces the very real prospect of a return to Direct Rule from Westminster for the first time in a decade.