Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has said the Irish premier Leo Varadkar “needs to make it clear” there will be no return to direct rule.
In a statement, Mr Adams said: “There is a threat by the British government to bring back direct rule which never worked at any time on this island and arguably is the cause of all of the difficulties we have had. The taoiseach needs to make it clear that this will not happen.
“There is a very clear commitment in the St Andrew’s agreement and in statements by the then taoiseach and British prime minister that there could be no return to direct rule.”
Lord Morrow, former MLA and current DUP chairman, suggested there was “still hope” for a deal between his party and Sinn Fein to restore devolution, but only “if Sinn Fein see sense”.
He said last night: “An agreement is possible when proposals are put forward that are acceptable to both unionists and nationalists. People should not be distracted by inaccurate briefings or predictions by those who might attempt to force an outcome.”
His comments came as Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire said the government will “do what is necessary” to provide “stability” in the absence of devolved government.
Mr Brokenshire said: “The UK government will do what is necessary to provide the stability required to ensure communities in Northern Ireland are not disadvantaged by the continued absence of devolved government.”
He added: “Next year will be the 20th anniversary of the Belfast Agreement. It behoves us all to do what we can to ensure that that historic date is not marked by an increasingly hands-on UK government, but instead by a functioning Northern Ireland Executive. This remains my overriding priority.”