Theresa May visits Northern Ireland as parties push for power-sharing deal
Theresa May will visit Northern Ireland today as the parties in the Stormont Assembly try to break a year of political deadlock and form a power-sharing executive.
The Prime Minister will be joined by Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on the trip to Belfast, which is her first visit to the province since May last year.
Northern Ireland has been run by civil servants since last January after Sinn Fein pulled out of the power-sharing arrangement in protest at the DUP's handling of a renewable energy scheme.
Although numerous attempts at breaking the impasse have been unsuccessful, Downing Street said there had been progress in the last few days.
Mrs May's own position has come under scrutiny since the Conservatives entered into a confidence-and-supply deal with the DUP, prompting fears from nationalists that the British government would not be an honest broker in the talks.
However Sinn Fein's deputy leader Michelle O'Neill said over the weekend she expected the talks "to conclude this week".
“I believe that the issues which caused the collapse of Stormont can be resolved with political will and mutual respect," she said.
'CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER'
Meanwhile the Irish government has expressed concerns that taking Britain out of the EU's single market and customs union could have serious consequence for the peace settlement in Northern Ireland.
EU spokesman Neale Richmond told ITV1's Peston on Sunday that a hard border on the island of Ireland would be a "clear and present danger" to the Good Friday agreement.
“Any border infrastructure, any customs infrastructure is a viable threat to the peace process, which is only 20 years old on this island," the Fine Gael senator said.
“The Irish government is a co-guarantor of the Good Friday agreement – an international treaty lodged with the United Nations as are the British government….
“It is not alarmism, we don’t take it for granted and we just get really really tired of people trying to say we are fearmongering. This is a clear and present danger to our peace process.”