Latest: Howlin calls on Varadkar and May to intervene in NI talks

Update 2.10pm: Labour Party Leader Brendan Howlin has called on the Taoiseach and British Prime Minister to both personally intervene to advance the stalled talks in Northern Ireland.

“It is has been clear for some time now that the DUP and Sinn Féin will not by themselves do a deal in Northern Ireland to restore the institutions,” he said.

"With Brexit looming, the restoration of the Executive is an imperative to protect the real interests of Northern Ireland. With the DUP now calling for the British Government to set a Budget for the North, it is clear that the talks have stalled.

"Over recent weeks we have seen the Taoiseach engage in jostling and shape throwing with Sinn Féin in the Dáil. While Sinn Féin are their own worst enemies in this regard, the Taoiseach’s endeavours have been self-serving - perhaps pleasing to his base, but unhelpful in the context of the peace process which as Taoiseach he has a duty to advance.

"The Taoiseach has suggested that we will not tolerate a return to British direct rule, whatever he means by that, but that is where we are heading unless he intervenes.

"Before time runs out, the British Prime Minister and Taoiseach must, as guardians of the Good Friday Agreement, roll up their sleeves and get themselves involved in the interests of the people of Northern Ireland.”

Earlier:

Northern Ireland is inching towards direct rule from Westminster after the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) called on the Secretary of State to set a budget for the North.

The DUP made the call just hours before the latest deadline to restore powersharing at Stormont runs out.

Sinn Féin, however, has said a deal could still be done, but insisted it must be "a deal for all in society and not just for the political leaderships of unionism".

The parties have been warned they must reach agreement by the end of today or Northern Ireland Secretary of State James Brokenshire will be forced to introduce a budget via Westminster.

Talks between the DUP and Sinn Féin paused on Friday for the weekend, without an agreement being reached.

This morning, ahead of the resumption of talks, the DUP called on Mr Brokenshire to set a budget to ensure a "measure of good government" in the North.

James Brokenshire

The party said it would not accept "a bad agreement cobbled together to suddenly suit the timetables of others".

"Our position has not changed, we want to see an executive set up - we would have done it in March and sorted these issues in tandem," said the party in a statement.

"Given Sinn Féin have dragged their feet over the last 10 months, the secretary of state should bring forward a budget to bring a measure of good government to Northern Ireland," the statement added.

The DUP said it would continue the discussions as it believes "devolution is best for Northern Ireland".

But it warned that it would not be a part of a "bad agreement cobbled together to suddenly suit the timetables of others".

Sinn Fein's Conor Murphy said while he believed a deal could still be done, it "needs to be a deal for all in our society and not just for the political leaderships of unionism".

"If the political institutions are to be sustainable then they must be restored on the basis of equality, rights and respect.

"That requires an end to the DUP's denial of rights citizens enjoy everywhere else on these islands, language rights, marriage rights and the right to a coroner's court," Mr Murphy added.

Earlier, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said that if a deal was not reached by today's deadline, his party would not accept direct rule from Westminster but only joint rule from both London and Dublin.

He said: "As I set out in January this year, I want to again make clear that a return to direct rule from London is wholly unacceptable.

"It would be a significant and serious breach of our political accommodation in the North and therefore must not be the automatic and the only fall-back option."

Mr Eastwood added: "In the absence of an Executive and Assembly, giving representation to the North's two traditions falls on both the Irish and British Governments.

"Maintaining that balance means that the alternative to direct rule is the joint stewardship of the North by the two governments."

The executive collapsed in January and Northern Ireland has been without a powersharing government since then.

Despite endless rounds of discussions, a deal to restore devolution has proved elusive, with the introduction of an Irish Language Act seen as the main issue.


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