'Hostile' marching season atmosphere complicating talks, says Sinn Fein

Locked gates at Stormont
Locked gates at Stormont

A deal to restore powersharing in Northern Ireland is unlikely to materialise in the short term, given heightened tensions around the summer marching season, Sinn Fein has said.

Ahead of a UK government statement on the way ahead for the faltering negotiations at Stormont, Sinn Fein negotiator Conor Murphy again accused the Democratic Unionists of refusing to budge on a series of outstanding disputes.

The republican party is demanding DUP movement on a proposed Irish Language Act; a Bill of Rights for the region; legalisation of same sex marriage; and around measures dealing with the legacy of the Troubles.

The DUP has characterised Sinn Fein's demands as excessive, accusing the party of wanting a "10-nil win" in negotiations.

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire will give a statement to the House of Commons late Monday afternoon after the latest deadline to reach agreement fell by the wayside last Thursday.

Mr Murphy said: "We don't see any urgency in terms of the DUP approach to this and we don't expect and don't think it is likely that there will be a deal in the short term because there is that lack of urgency."

Reflecting on the upcoming Twelfth of July, the mainstay of the loyal order marching season, he added: "We are in the bizarre situation, I'm sure it's unique to here, that over the summer time we have to break because the atmosphere becomes too hostile for political negotiations."

Mr Murphy continued: "Now we find ourselves up against the Twelfth of July where the atmosphere becomes so hostile that the DUP are even less likely to move on some of these issues."

Options open to Mr Brokenshire include setting another deadline for a talks process which began in March, calling this year's second snap assembly election or re-imposing some form of direct rule from Westminster.

The devolved institutions imploded in January when DUP leader Arlene Foster was forced from office after Sinn Fein's then deputy first minister, the late Martin McGuinness, quit.

That was in protest at the DUP's handling of the renewable heat incentive (RHI), a scheme that left the administration facing a £490 million overspend.

One of the main current sticking points is over Sinn Fein's call for an act officially protecting the Irish language.

The DUP is prepared to legislate, but only if there are reciprocal protections for Ulster-Scots speakers.