Power-sharing negotiations in N. Ireland turn open-ended

PAUL McERLANE

Northern Ireland Secretary of State James Brokenshire (L) and Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Simon Coveney (R) address journalists outside Stormont Castle in Belfast, Northern Ireland, 29 June 2017. Northern Ireland's political parties face an intensive day of talks as efforts to restore power-sharing at Stormont continue. Round-table discussions began on 27 June 2017 and ending on the deadline day 29 June 2017. The involved parties have been told that if there is no agreement on restoring the government, direct rule from Westminster could follow.

London is avoiding direct rule, preferring to transfer political competence to public servants


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The UK’s Secretary for Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire, provided more room for negotiations between the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein for the formation of a unity government.

The deadline was extended from last Thursday to Monday when negotiations became in effect an open-ended process. Brokenshire expressed the wish for the formation of a unity government “by the end of the week,” but did not set a new deadline.

Mr Brokenshire is warning that in the absence of political authority in Northern Ireland, spending priorities would be transferred to the civil service. Meanwhile, Mr. Brokenshire succumbed to a DUP demand for so-called “transparency legislation,” which require donations made to political parties in Northern Ireland to be published.

Sinn Fein has been keen to see an investigation over alleged Saudi secret services funding for the Leave campaign channeled through the DUP. The Brokenshire’s proposal is for new legislation to go into effect after July 1, which means it would focus on US funding for Sinn Fein.

In the meantime, Northern Ireland is entering a “marching season,” with unionists celebrating the 1690 victory of the Protestant King William of Orange over his Catholic rival at the Battle of the Boyne. The celebration usually entails Protestants insisting on their right to march through Catholic neighborhoods.

A number of Sinn Fein officials say a deal with the DUP is unlikely in the short term. The DUP’s leader Arele Foster suggested on Monday that Sinn Fein has a “shopping list that seems to get longer.” That includes the adoption of an Irish Language Act and a quota for Gaelic speaking civil servants that the DUP will not accept.

Without a power-sharing deal, the British government will be forced to bypass the regional assembly and revert to direct rule from London.

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