Governments 'must end Northern Ireland's political drift'
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood is calling on the British and Irish governments to "decisively intervene" to end the political drift in Northern Ireland.
He said it would be "deeply reckless" if efforts to avert direct rule and restore devolution were placed on hold until after the DUP and Sinn Fein conferences later this month.
The two parties failed to meet Northern Ireland Secretary Jame Brokenshire's deadline for a deal last week, after Stormont had been effectively in limbo since January.
Mr Eastwood said: "Since the failure of the talks last Wednesday confusion has reigned on whether a talks process is still in place between the DUP and Sinn Fein.
"Weeks ago the British Secretary of State talked about a glide path; however, it is clear for all to see that this process is not gliding, it is drifting aimlessly.
"We are hurtling towards London direct rule served up by a Tory/DUP government.
"As co-guarantors, it is now the role of the two governments to grab hold of these talks and give everyone certainty.
"They need to map out a timetable and an inclusive process between now and Christmas."
The SDLP leader said if direct rule continued into the new year, it would be very difficult to restore devolution in the short-to medium-term.
"It would be deeply reckless to allow the schedules of the DUP and Sinn Fein party conferences to delay that effort," the Foyle MLA said. "Appeasing these parties further by providing them with time and space to speak to their own party bases could end up setting this process back rather than moving it forward.
"Left to themselves and left to their own contradictions, neither of these two parties are capable of delivering anything."