Northern Ireland: May urged to 'take forward equal marriage'

Latest phase of talks over NI power restoration 'over' - McDonald

Latest phase of talks over NI power restoration 'over' - McDonald

Sinn Fein is to meet with both the Irish and United Kingdom governments today, 15 February, after DUP leader Arlene Foster confirmed talks to restore power-sharing in NI had failed.

It comes after the latest round of negotiations between the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Fein, aimed at restoring Northern Ireland's executive at Stormont, failed to reach a deal. Foster and the DUP to raze the Northern Ireland government over the canard that an Irish Language Act is a "new demand" is unconscionable.

I'm sure the Prime Minister's visit will have been helpful but this is a very, very hard set of circumstances and this is a very sensitive issue.

Two days ago the British and Irish prime ministers raised the prospect of the stalemate ending soon.

Today, Ms McDonald said that it was up to Ms Foster to explain why the talks were brought to a close.

The British government, which is overseeing the talks alongside the Irish government, has already had to take steps towards ruling the region directly from London for the first time in a decade, setting a budget late previous year that runs until the end of March.

The DUP leadership is said to have been "spooked" by the level of opposition to such an act, not only inside the party but in the wider unionist community.

Theresa May during a visit to the Bombardier factory in Belfast
Theresa May during a visit to the Bombardier factory in Belfast

The two parties blamed each other for the impasse that threatens power-sharing, the key achievement of Northern Ireland's 1998 peace accord that ended decades of bloodshed.

Amid the furore over the DUP's decision to pull the plug on the talks, of which May and her Irish counterpart, Leo Varadkar, painted an optimistic picture during their joint visit to Belfast on Monday, gay marriage campaigners attended Stormont on Wednesday.

Human rights organisations and LGBT equality campaigners in Northern Ireland have been calling for Westminster to legislate for gay marriage in the region if it becomes apparent that its introduction is not possible at a regional level in the foreseeable future.

According to DUP leader Arlene Foster, the talks failed due to disagreements with Sinn Fein about legislation for the Irish language.

A succession of Prime Ministers have worked hard to deliver agreements but there's only so much they can do, ultimately it is down to Northern Ireland's leaders, she added.

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