'No plans' for direct rule at Stormont

Sinn Féin and the DUP have less than two weeks to form a government

'No plans' for direct rule at Stormont

Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill and Gerry Adams in Dublin | Image: Aisling Roche

Sinn Féin says it is not planning for a return to direct rule for Northern Ireland.

Party leader Michelle O'Neill says everyone needs to get back to the principles of the Good Friday Agreement.

The party and the DUP have less than two weeks left to form a government in Stormont, or risk a return to direct rule from Westminster.

Speaking in Dublin, Ms O'Neill said they are working to reach agreement on power-sharing.

"We're not planning for that - direct rule has failed the people of the North and it will again.

"We're planning to try and find a way through all the difficult issues - Sinn Féin always come at it wanting to find solution, wanting to find a way forward.

"But we can't return to the status quo - we've been very clear about that.

"We need to get back to good government, we need to go back to the principles of the Good Friday Agreement, we need to get back to proper power-sharing.

"But we're coming at it with the right attitude, others are also, and we need to try and find our way forward (in) the next couple of weeks".

While the deputy leader of the DUP Nigel Dodds says discussions this week have been business-like.

But he says he wants to see Stormont back up and running as quickly as possible.

"A good deal has happened this week in terms of getting these talks underway, getting the issues on to the table - and we will remain very committed to taking it forward.

"So I think all-in-all we have made progress in getting this underway, we're a long way from getting all the issues sorted yet - but we're all committed to trying to make it happen".

"Encouraged by the willingness of all sides"

Last week, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan also joined the talks.

Afterwards, he said: "I was encouraged by the willingness of all sides to engage on the key issues. At the same time, I am very conscious of the complexity of the issues that must be resolved and of the limited timeframe available.

"All sides, including the two governments and the parties, will have to extend themselves if we are to achieve the collective objectives of re-establishing the power-sharing institutions of the Good Friday Agreement."

In elections earlier this month, Sinn Féin cut the DUP's previous 10-seat Stormont advantage to a single seat.

The DUP now holds 28 of the 90 available seats in Stormont - but narrowly remains the largest party.

Party leader Arlene Foster, who refused to step aside during a controversial cash-for-ash scheme, has denied there is a revolt against her.