Northern Ireland awakens to the threat of direct rule from London

PAUL McERLANE

The clock at Stormont Castle shows 4pm, Belfast, Northern Ireland 29 June 2017. Politicians have just hours left to reach an agreement on restoring power-sharing in Northern Ireland. The parties had until 16:00 BST to form a new government. If the deadline is not met, Northern Ireland faces the possibility of direct rule from Westminster.

Northern Ireland awakens to the threat of direct rule from London


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Belfast awakens to the threat of direct rule from London, ending a period of power-sharing for the first time in a decade.

The sharing of power between Unionists and Catholics lies at the heart of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. The current coalition government collapsed in January 2017 over an economic scandal. The deadline for the formation of a unity government elapsed on Thursday, June 29, but extended until Monday, July 3.

The minister for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire will brief the House of Commons on Monday on the government’s intentions.

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams told the BBC on Saturday that Northern Ireland is unlikely to have a power-sharing government by Monday. Sinn Fein MP John O’Dowd called on the prime ministers of the UK and Ireland to intervene personally in the negotiations. It is not known whether Theresa May and Leo Varadkar have since sought direct involvement in the talks.

Speaking to the BBC on Sunday, the DUP MP Christopher Stalford said Sinn Féin is presenting a “shopping list” of demands and is uncompromising. The leader of Sinn Fein, Gerry Adams, insists a deal is possible if the DUP makes concessions to Sinn Fein’s values-based agenda, which includes a demand for marriage equality for gay couples, an Irish language Act that will recognize Gaelic as a second official language, and an inquest on killings of Catholic political activists dating back four decades ago.

“The DUP are showing no urgency or no real inclination to deal with the rights-based issues which are at the crux and the heart of these difficulties which we are talking here about,” Gerry Adams said.

Northern Ireland has several precedents of direct rule from London, the latest lasting from October 2002 to May 2007.

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