Stormont deadline pushed out to June 29th

The talks have been continuing since elections in March

Stormont deadline pushed out to June 29th

Pictured is Stormont, home of the Northern Ireland Assembly, in Belfast | Image: RollingNews.ie

The Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan says a deadline for parties at Stormont to reach a power-sharing agreement has been further extended to June 29th.

The date for a final agreement has already been pushed out until after the British general election on June 8th.

But in a statement, Minister Flanagan says: "The legislation that has just been passed at Westminster extends the period in which an executive can be formed until 29 June.

"There will therefore be a sufficient opportunity after June 8 for the talks to resume and for the parties, with the appropriate support and involvement of the two Governments, to re-engage on the urgent task of forming a new executive and taking forward the implementation of outstanding commitments from previous agreements."

Mr Flanagan says he has had "various contacts" with the parties in Northern Ireland since the announcement of the British general election.

He adds: "There was a widespread view that given the demands and constraints of the election campaign, the best course would be to pause the current talks until after the general election takes place on 8 June."

This was confirmed at a round-table meeting in Stormont Castle on Thursday, at which the Irish Government was present.

Minister Flanagan says "good work has been done collectively by the five parties" in the talks, which began in early March.

He says the Irish Government will continue to support and facilitate efforts to reach agreement.

Sinn Féin secured its best-ever performance at assembly elections in March, cutting the DUPs 10-seat advantage to one.

Talks have reportedly been constructive but there has been little progress on key issues - such as the future of the Irish Language Act and methods for dealing with the legacy of the Troubles.

The main parties have blamed each other for the stalemate. One of the issues holding up the talks is Brexit.

Sinn Féin leader Michelle O'Neill has accused the British government of preferring no assembly over one which is opposed to Brexit.

However, her party has been calling for Northern Ireland to be granted special status when the UK leaves the European Union.