Stormont talks break up with no sign of agreement
Talks aimed at brokering a deal between the DUP and Sinn Fein to restore a Stormont Executive broke up late last night without any sign of a significant breakthrough.
Secretary of State James Brokenshire and Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney took part in the eleventh-hour discussions with the leaders of Sinn Fein and the DUP.
The parties have been set a Monday deadline to reach a deal to restore devolution - or Mr Brokenshire will set in train the legislative process to pass a budget for Northern Ireland in the House of Commons at Westminster. It was unclear last night whether the politicians would return for talks over the weekend but sources said that at the very least contact between the parties would be ongoing.
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, DUP leader Arlene Foster, and the Republic's Foreign Minister Simon Coveney were all at Stormont for the negotiations yesterday. DUP sources said that even if there was no deal and Mr Brokenshire passed a budget for Northern Ireland, dialogue between the parties would still continue next week.
The SDLP has warned that a return of "Tory direct rule" here is not acceptable.
Northern Ireland has been without an Executive for almost ten months.
Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness resigned in January in protest at the DUP's handling of the cash-for-ash scandal.
Disagreement over an Irish Language Act remains the major stumbling block to the DUP and Sinn Fein reaching a deal to break the deadlock.