Power-sharing talks at Stormont enter final week

Parties must reach a deal by Monday March 27th

Power-sharing talks at Stormont enter final week

The Parliament Building in Stormont | Image: RollingNews.ie

Talks to restore a power-sharing executive in Northern Ireland are entering their final week.

The clock is ticking as the parties return to what all sides are now calling 'critical' negotiations.

They must reach a deal by Monday March 27th, or risk a return to direct rule from London.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan will head to Stormont for another meeting with Northern Secretary James Brokenshire later this week.

While last week, Sinn Féin said it was not planning for a return to direct rule.

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

"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 Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster said she had not once considered resigning as party leader, despite the party losing their overall majority for the first time.

Mrs Foster refused to step aside during an investigation into a controversial cash-for-ash scheme, which was introduced when she was enterprise minister.

Asked if she would resign if her being leader was a stumbling block to forming a power-sharing executive, she said: "We're in negotiations and that's what it's all about at the moment.

"But Gerry Adams, in particular, and Sinn Féin in general have talked about who they want to see - or rather who they don't want to see - as first minister in terms of the DUP.

"Because of course it is up to our party to decide who are nominee would be."