Belfast Telegraph

SF is opposed to extending Monday's deadline: Adams

By Noel McAdam

Sinn Fein is opposed to any extension to next Monday's deadline to restore Stormont, Gerry Adams has insisted.

In a speech last night, Mr Adams also repeated warnings that Sinn Fein will oppose direct rule.

It came as talks to restore devolved government went on yesterday as the Assembly resumed following the death of Martin McGuinness.

The British and Irish governments held a series of bilateral meetings with the parties as efforts to agree a deal on a range of issues approach crunch time.

Without a deal by next Monday afternoon, Secretary of State James Brokenshire must decide whether to call a fresh election, although he does not have to decide on an election date for "a reasonable period of time".

There were signs yesterday that preparations are under way to allow for a "soft landing" should the Assembly prove unable to elect a First Minister and Deputy First Minister on Monday.

One SDLP source said: "The pressure will be on, but I don't think the governments will want to create a sense of real crisis."

An Alliance source added: "Real progress is being made, albeit very slowly. It would be madness to put all that at risk."

Mr Adams, who attended the talks yesterday, said: "There is only a very short time to form the Executive for the northern Assembly. So far there is no agreement to do this. Sinn Fein has made it clear that there can be no return to the status quo."

Sinn Fein have had teams of between 10 and 20, often including Mr Adams, over every day of the talks. But the party will today be absent to attend Mr McGuinness's funeral.

It was unclear whether other parties would continue talking today, with most of their leaders and others also planning to go to the funeral.

Speaking in Newry last night Mr Adams said: "It is possible for agreement to be reached in the coming days," he said.

"There cannot be continuous negotiation and re-negotiation of agreements already made. So Sinn Fein is opposed to any extension of Monday's deadline or a return to British direct rule."

Mr Adams argued the Government's power to suspend the Assembly has gone and it would be a "very serious step" to reintroduce legislation to restore it.

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