Small parties 'snub SF call to commit to an Executive'
Sinn Fein leader Mary-Lou McDonald has reportedly asked Northern Ireland's smaller parties at the Stormont talks to commit to serving in a future Executive before beginning negotiations about a possible Programme for Government.
The Sunday Business Post reported that Ms McDonald made the request at the start of the talks process last week - but was rebuffed.
The paper said that the requests provoked a "tussle" between the Sinn Fein leader and SDLP chief Colum Eastwood.
Secretary of State Karen Bradley and Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney reconvened talks aimed at restoring devolution last Tuesday.
The talks are expected to last several weeks.
Working groups will be set up to address cultural issues such as an Irish Language Act; the reform of Stormont's structures, such as the petition of concern, and rights issues.
Before the Assembly and Executive was suspended in early 2017, the Ulster Unionist Party had moved to form an official opposition to the DUP/Sinn Fein bloc at Stormont, with the party declining to accept ministerial office in the power-sharing Executive.
The SDLP, too, decided to go into opposition, while the Alliance Party refused to accept the justice portfolio, which was eventually allocated to Independent MLA Claire Sugden.
Sinn Fein was asked for comment on the Sunday Business Post claims, but the party had not responded at the time of going to press.