Brokenshire urges Northern Ireland politicians to reach powersharing agreement

James Brokenshire
James Brokenshire

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire has urged the region's politicians to reach a powersharing deal, saying he does not wish to see devolution end but his ultimate responsibility is ensuring some form of government.

Mr Brokenshire revealed on Wednesday that the absolute latest date for the parties to reach an agreement to return to the powersharing Executive would be October 30.

In a written statement, Mr Brokenshire urged the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein to reach an agreement by this date.

He said: "I, the UK Government, and the Irish Government, want the parties to reach an agreement and restore devolved government in Northern Ireland. But my ultimate responsibility is to the people of Northern Ireland.

"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."

Powersharing collapsed in January this year, as the late Sinn Fein leader Martin McGuinness pulled out of the executive in protest, citing concerns at how his counterparts in the DUP handled allegations of mismanaging a renewable energy scheme.

The parties have since failed to reach an agreement to return to Stormont, with divisions remaining over culture and the Irish language.

Sinn Fein have said they will not return to government unless the DUP agrees to the introduction of a standalone Irish language act.

The DUP have rejected this, with DUP leader Arlene Foster instead proposing a "cross-community" bill which would include both the Irish language and Ulster Scots.

Mr Brokenshire said some progress had been made in talks. However, they stalled at the end of last week as issues around language and culture remained unresolved.

Mr Brokenshire has said if a deal is not reached by October 30, he will be forced to begin greater and greater "UK intervention" including passing a budget for Northern Ireland in Westminster.