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Theresa May urged to get directly involved in Stormont talks as deadlock continues

Agnes Chambre

3 min read

Theresa May has been urged to get directly involved in talks to re-start power-sharing at Stormont talks after the latest deadline passed without a deal.

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire confirmed this afternoon that DUP and Sinn Fein had failed to reach an agreement to form a new executive, despite the cut-off having initially been extended from Thursday last week.

He warned today that “time is running out” but admitted that his patience was wearing thin.

"This hiatus cannot continue for much longer," he said. "There is no doubt that the best outcome is for a new executive to take those strategic decisions in the interest of a

"If no agreement is reached, legislation in Westminster may then be required to give authority for the expenditure of Northern Ireland departments through an appropriations bill. We have not quite reached that point. That point is coming and the lack of a formal budget is not something that can be sustained indefinitely."

Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Smith led calls for Theresa May to go to Northern Ireland herself in a bid to force through a deal.

He said: "I would invite the Secretary of State, in the new spirit of free speech that seems to be happening in the Conservative party, to agree with me that the Prime Minister could do a bit more? That he could tell her to get a bit more involved herself and get on a plane to Belfast.

"History has told us on this side of the House and on his that the direct involvement of the Prime Minister can help us bridge the divide in Northern Ireland - it can move things forward.

"It is a surprise to me that this Prime Minister fails to take personal responsibility to break the deadlock. I think I and many in Northern Ireland think that the current Prime Minister has a particular duty to take some personal responsibility to get more involved."

For the Lib Dems, Alistair Carmichael said: “I don’t often hanker after the days of Tony Blair but I have to say if we had reached this state of affairs under his premiership, we would have seen not just involvement by the Prime Minister but active leadership."

Former Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Vernon Coaker called on Mr Brokenshire to encourage the Prime Minister and Irish Taoiseach to make a joint appearance in Northern Ireland to broker a deal.

And Northern Ireland-born Labour MP Conor McGinn said Mrs May should go to Belfast to “find the resolution we all want to see”.

“There’s a time for passive observation and there’s a time for intensive intervention,” he said.

But Mr Brokenshire insisted Mrs May has been “actively involved” in the process.

“I would stress that the Prime Minister has been actively involved throughout this whole process in having these conversations with the party leaders," he said.

“There is continued active engagement. To the extent that if further interventions are required, of course we will always keep that under review to see what will effectively bring about resolution that I know he and I would like to see in place.”

Northern Ireland's executive has been out of action since January, when ten years of power-sharing broke down after a scandal over a renewable heating scheme.

Elsewhere in the statement, Mr Brokenshire confirmed the Government will force Northern Ireland parties to declare the sources of funding on or after 1 July 2017.

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