Stormont talks to resume on Monday

Northern Ireland's political parties have until Easter to reach a deal on the formation of a new Executive

Stormont talks to resume on Monday

File Photo: Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill and DUP leader Arlene Foster, 16-02-2017. Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire/PA Images

Political parties in the North will return to Stormont on Monday to resume talks aimed at restoring the Northern Executive.

The Northern Ireland secretary, James Brokenshire, has given the parties until after Easter to reach a deal.

The original deadline to form a new administration passed on Monday at 4pm.

Should the parties fail to reach agreement for a second time, Mr Brokenshire will be obliged to call a new round of elections – or possibly move for a return to direct rule from London.

In a statement this afternoon, the Department of Foreign Affairs said the aim of the talks is to allow the political parties reach an agreement on the formation of a new Executive and to address the implementation of outstanding issues.

It said the Irish and British governments have jointly agreed to support the talks with “an intensive process to drive progress.”

The previous round of talks came in for strong criticism for their failure to include some of the smaller parties.

The parties are now set to agree on a new agenda and hold structured, bilateral and roundtable meetings overseen by the British and Irish governments.

“The heart of the Good Friday Agreement is its interlocking political institutions operating on the basis of partnership, equality and mutual respect,” said Foreign Affairs Minister, Charlie Flanagan.

“As a co-guarantor of the Agreement, the Irish Government is determined to uphold its principles and protect its institutions. In the days ahead we will work with all concerned to this end.”

“I believe it is critically important to see devolved Government restored and working effectively in the interests of the people of Northern Ireland, in particular in the context of Brexit.”

At the last round of elections Sinn Féin secured its best-ever performance to cut the DUPs 10-seat advantage to one.

Following the collapse of talks on Sunday, Sinn Féin's leader in the North, Michelle O’Neill insisted the DUP’s approach to the negotiations must reflect the new political landscape brought about by the election result.

Her party has argued that previous deals to give legal status to the Irish language and to proceed with inquiries into deaths during the decades of sectarian violence have not been honoured.

DUP leader Arlene Foster claimed there was "little to suggest" Sinn Féin want to secure agreement.

She accused the party of demanding too many concessions. 

The last time devolved government collapsed, it took five years to reinstate it.