Arlene Foster says no prospect of restored devolved government for Northern Ireland
Mrs Foster said efforts to find a stable and sustainable resolution were unsuccessful.
Democractic Unionist leader Arlene Foster has said there is no prospect of restoring Northern Ireland’s devolved government.
In a statement, which has effectively torpedoed talks aimed at ending the 13-month impasse at Stormont, Mrs Foster said attempts to find a stable and sustainable resolution had been unsuccessful.
She said: “In our view, there is no current prospect of these discussions leading to an Executive being formed.
“It is now incumbent upon Her Majesty’s Government to set a budget and start making policy decisions about our schools, hospitals and infrastructure.
“Important decisions impacting on everyone in Northern Ireland have been sitting in limbo for too long. I had dearly hoped that we could have restored an Executive and local ministers could have taken those decisions. That is not possible at this time.
“Northern Ireland is best governed by local ministers who are accountable to local people.”
The Stormont government collapsed last year in a row over a botched green energy scheme.
Since then divisions over issues including Irish language rights, same sex marriage and how to deal with the legacy of Northern Ireland’s troubled past have proved insurmountable.
Sinn Fein wants a standalone piece of legislation to protect speakers – an Irish Language Act – but the DUP has long insisted it would only countenance new laws if they also incorporate other cultures, such as Ulster Scots.
Mrs Foster added: “Restoring a sustainable and fully functioning devolved government will remain our goal but we will not accept a one-sided deal.
“Any agreement to restore the Executive must be on a sensible basis. We cannot and will not be held to ransom by those who have refused to form an Executive for over thirteen months.”
On Monday the Prime Minister Theresa May and Taoiseach Leo Varadakar travelled to Stormont to encourage the region’s parties to finally end the deadlock that has left Northern Ireland without a functioning government since last January.
Mrs May urged them to make “one final push” to strike a deal to salvage powersharing.
Afterwards, Mrs Foster said while the leaders were welcome, their presence proved a “bit of a distraction” as it interrupted negotiations. The DUP leader said the governments had been told in advance of their trip that “the deal wasn’t done”.
Her statement continued: “I have made it consistently clear that unionists will not countenance a stand alone or free standing Irish Language Act. Sinn Fein’s insistence on a stand alone Irish Language Act means that we have reached an impasse.
“As far back as last summer, I outlined my party’s willingness to reach an accommodation on language and cultural issues. However, I indicated that any such accommodation must be fair, balanced and capable of commanding support on all sides of our community. At the moment, we do not have a fair and balanced package.”
Respect for the unionist and British identity had “not been reciprocated”, she claimed.