Sinn Féin has planned meetings with the Irish and UK governments on Thursday, following the collapse of negotiations on Tuesday evening.
Negotiations formally ended on Wednesday, after the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Arlene Foster, made clear that is no prospect for a unity government at this point in time.
Northern Ireland has failed to form a local government in Stormont for the last 13 months when the Republicans withdrew their support for Arlene Foster’s administration. Since November 2016, Northern Ireland remains without a power-sharing devolved executive, which is central to the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement.
Sinn Féin is demanding an Irish Language Act, that is, the recognition of Irish as an official administrative language in Northern Ireland. The DUP leader, Arlene Foster, refuses to accept the notion of an Irish language at par with English.
The political leverage of the DUP has increased as Theresa May’s government depends on DUP parliamentary support. When it comes to the terms of Brexit, the DUP has dominated political influence over Theresa May’s government, as there is no power-sharing executive to draft a common position.
In effect the region is now moving towards direct rule from London, as the local parliament in Stormont is unable to pass a budget. Sinn Féin insists that direct rule from London is “not an option,” although in effect there is little London can do without a negotiated power-sharing arrangement in Northern Ireland.
Dublin opposes the prospect of a long-term direct rule, as the Irish Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney told the Irish public broadcaster RTÉ on Thursday. However, relations between Dublin and London are not at their peak, given that it is unclear how the UK will honour its commitment for a soft border as it leaves the Single Market and the Customs’ Union.