Wednesday

23rd May 2018

UK and Ireland in push to break Northern Ireland deadlock

  • Stormont, the seat of Northern Ireland's assembly in Belfast (Photo: Robert Young)

UK and Irish leaders on Monday (12 February) increased pressure on Northern Ireland's parties to end a 13-month deadlock and form a government.

Theresa May and Leo Varadkar held talks in Belfast with unionist and nationalists parties and had a bilateral meeting about the situation in the region.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which holds the key to forming a government and is an ally of May's government in London, refused to meet with Varadkar because he is the leader of another party.

"I think we are now at the point of where it is time for the locally elected representatives to find a way to work together and to deal with and tackle the many pressing issues facing Northern Ireland," May said after the talks.

She insisted that "it has been thirteen long months since we last saw devolved government here."

The government fell in January last year over a series of issues, including a scandal surrounding a renewable heat scheme and the departure of deputy first minister Martin McGuinness, the nationalist Sinn Fein's main figure, due to ill health.

An election in March remained inconclusive and talks have been dragging on ever since.

"While some differences remain, I believe that it is possible to see the basis of an agreement here," May said after Monday's talks.

She insisted that the DUP and Sinn Fein "have been working very hard to close the remaining gaps."

Varadkar said he was "very hopeful that those two parties will be able to come to agreement this week."

DUP leader Arlene Foster noted that there was "very good progress", but that "there isn't a deal yet."

"We will keep at it and continue to work on that progress," she said.

Sinn Fein's leader, Mary Lou McDonald, said she believed that "we are close to an agreement which, certainly, we can put to our grassroots and to the community as a whole."

The deadlock in Northern Ireland has jeopardised the power-sharing between unionists and nationalists, put in place after the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement.

Hard border

It also comes as Brexit - and the prospect of a 'hard border' with the Republic of Ireland - threatens stability and cooperation brought about by the agreement across the border.

At their meeting in Belfast, May and Varadkar agreed to work together to find solutions to avoid a hard border.

The Irish prime minister insisted after the meeting that "the best option by which we can avoid any new barriers [is] through a comprehensive customs and trade agreement involving Britain and Ireland."

He said that he agreed with May "to work together at official levels to see if we can explore solutions to see how that can be achieved in the coming weeks and months."

UK to take over Northern Ireland budget

Northern Ireland secretary James Brokenshire said London is "left with no option but to legislate at Westminster" because of a political deadlock in Belfast amid uncertainty over Brexit.

Analysis

Orban, the 'anti-Merkel', emboldens European right

Hungary's premier Viktor Orban has inspired 'illiberalism' across central Europe and far-right politicians in the West. His expected re-election this Sunday will further reinforce his standing as a symbol for being tough on Europe's political mainstream.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  2. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  3. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  5. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  7. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  10. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  11. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach
  12. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May

Latest News

  1. 'Killer robot' projects eligible for EU defence fund
  2. Funding for European values needs radical changes
  3. Feeble EU format deflates Zuckerberg 'hearing'
  4. Are EU data watchdogs staffed for GDPR?
  5. EU pessimistic on permanent US trade exemption
  6. US asks EU to go after Russian and African villains
  7. Facebook threatened with removal from EU-US data pact
  8. Defence firms 'reap benefits' of advice to EU