Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein and DUP 'hopeful' of Northern Ireland power-sharing return

 

The DUP and Sinn Fein are hopeful of restoring Northern Ireland's power-sharing institutions.

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The five main political parties were represented at a panel discussion with business leaders on Wednesday morning hosted by the CBI.

They face a race against time to restore power sharing before a fresh election is called, potentially in the early new year.

The DUP's Sir Jeffrey Donaldson spoke of his hopes for a resumption of devolved government.

"Whilst we can go to Westminster and we can do what we do, I believe it is ultimately much more powerful if there is a collective voice from Northern Ireland saying what we need," he said.

The Stormont institutions have been collapsed for almost three years following a breakdown in relations between the DUP and Sinn Fein.

Secretary of State Julian Smith has said he is duty bound to call an election should there be no Executive formed by January 13. He and his two predecessors have legislated for delaying the legal obligation there is to call a fresh Assembly election since March 2017.

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Sinn Fein candidate Chris Hazzard said he felt hopeful that devolved government could be restored (Liam McBurney/PA)

Sinn Fein South Down candidate Chris Hazzard said he also felt hopeful that devolved government could be restored.

He repeated his party’s position that there had been a compromise on the talks table last year over one of the sticking points in negotiations – calls for an Irish Language Act.

"I hate to be a broken record, but there was a compromise on the table last year. It was not the all-encompassing Irish language act that is held up some times to frighten people. Unfortunately that has not been agreed to yet but I am hopeful we can."

SDLP South Belfast candidate Claire Hanna said if the petition of concern was reformed that could go a long way to breaking the deadlock. She said there was a growing consensus around that issue.

She said there could be a "break in the clouds" if Brexit was resolved.

“I think if the Conservatives and DUP aren’t in their arrangement, I think that changes the dynamic quite fundamentally in terms of how the UK Government approaches this,” she said.

“We will come back to the answer of power sharing, compromise and partnership because there simply isn’t another one.”

We need to make Northern Ireland work again Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aiken

Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aiken, however, sounded a warning that devolved government in the region may not be savable.

The East Antrim candidate described himself as a “realist” as he said there needed to be a “fundamental shift in the culture of how we do government in Northern Ireland”, describing how it had been as “not a partnership”.

“After this General Election we have got three weeks probably to see whether Northern Ireland’s government is savable. If it is not, we are going to have to get into direct rule because we must have decisions which are going to work,” he said.

“We need to make Northern Ireland work again.”

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Dr Stephen Farry said Northern Ireland is ‘an afterthought’ in the Brexit negotiations (Liam McBurney/PA)

Meanwhile, the Alliance Party’s North Down candidate, Stephen Farry, said while he was not hopeful, the stalemate needed to be sorted.

“The only people who care about this place are the five parties up here on this panel. We have to get it together.

“While I’m not hopeful because of what has happened in the past, the logic of us getting back round the table and getting this sorted is ever clearer.”

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