DUP leader Arlene Foster today blasted Theresa May‘s visit to Belfast as a ‘distraction’ from talks to restore powersharing.
The Prime Minister raised hopes of a breakthrough in the 13-month stalemate by announcing the surprise visit, which also include Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
But as talks broke up last night little progress had been made and the two main parties – Mrs Foster’s DUP and Sinn Fein – never met face to face.
Devolution has been on ice for more than a year after Sinn Fein collapsed the power-sharing executive and demanded Mrs Foster’s resignation.
DUP leader Arlene Foster (pictured today in Belfast) has blasted Theresa May’s visit to Belfast as a ‘distraction’ from talks to restore powersharing
The Prime Minister (pictured at Stormont last night) raised hopes of a breakthrough in the 13-month stalemate by announcing the surprise visit
As talks broke up last night Mrs May urged the parties to make ‘one final push’ to strike a deal to salvage powersharing.
But Mrs Foster said while the leaders were welcome, their presence proved a ‘bit of a distraction’ as it interrupted negotiations.
She said the governments had been told in advance of their trip that ‘the deal wasn’t done’.
Downing Street declined to comment on Mrs Foster’s remarks, insisting Mrs May had made the reason for his trip clear last night.
Speaking outside Stormont last night, the PM said: ‘I believe it is possible to see the basis of an agreement here.
‘There is the basis of an agreement and it should be possible to see an executive up and running in Northern Ireland very soon.’
‘We should be able to see an executive up and running very soon.’
Sinn Fein’s leadership (including Mary Lou McDonald left and Michelle O’Neill right) have insisted the moment has arrived to strike a deal
On the issues in the talks, Mrs Foster today repeated her insistence her party would not sign off on a stand-alone Irish Language Act – a key Sinn Fein demand throughout the 13-month impasse.
She also ruled out any laws that would require bilingual road signs in Northern Ireland; compulsory teaching of Irish in schools; or quotas of Irish language speakers within the civil service.
Sinn Fein senior negotiator Conor Murphy said an Irish Language Act was essential to any deal to restore the political institutions.
He said talks were at a critical stage and the party was focused on achieving a deal.
‘However they want to describe it, the DUP know that agreement requires an Acht Gaeilge.
‘The DUP need to make up their mind about whether they are up for a deal or not.
‘This is a time for leadership and calm heads and there is a responsibility on all involved not to react to some of the noise from people who simply don’t want an agreement.’
On the issues in the talks, Mrs Foster (pictured last night in Stormont) today repeated her insistence her party would not sign off on a stand-alone Irish Language Act – a key Sinn Fein demand throughout the 13-month impasse