Nobody notified in advance of DUP’s decision to leave talks
Failure of two parties to agree restoration of government ‘bitterly disappointing’
Simon Coveney: he said he had spoken with Northern Secretary Karen Bradley, and would remain in close contact
The Government was taken completely by surprise by the abrupt decision of the DUP to withdraw from negotiations to restore the Northern institutions, senior sources have confirmed.
It is understood that nobody, including the British government, was notified by the DUP in advance of leader Arlene Foster’s announcement that the party was withdrawing because of the impasse over the proposed Irish language Act.
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said he had spoken with Northern Secretary Karen Bradley, and would remain in close contact. He said he also briefed Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on the development.
“As co-guarantor of the Good Friday agreement, the UK and Irish governments have an obligation to uphold and protect the letter and spirit of the agreement. We will need to reflect in the coming days on how best to do that.”
Ms Bradley said “it appears that this phase of talks is now at an end”, but that she believed the “basis for an accommodation still exists”.
“The position of the UK government remains the same: devolved government is in the best interests of everyone in Northern Ireland and is best for the union. In the continued absence of an Executive, other challenging decisions will have to be taken by the UK government.”
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the people of Northern Ireland were being let down, and that “the continued failure of the two dominant political parties in the North to agree restoration of government is bitterly disappointing”.
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said he was “angry” and “disappointed” at the collapse. “After years of trying to bridge our deep historical differences we are in danger of retreating from each other once more.
“The balance underpinning this place is that nationalism and unionism must work together. That’s a reality that some still fail to face. We need to get back to the spirit envisaged by the Good Friday agreement that both traditions on our island are accommodated and respected.”
Ulster Unionist Party leader Robin Swann said: “We need to know, and what Northern Ireland needs to know, is the door to devolution now firmly closed or is there still a possibility of it being open?”
Alliance leader Naomi Long said it was a “sad day for the peace process and wider Northern Ireland”.
“The [British] government has a responsibility to take some kind of control – it is not right over 20 years of political investment should be squandered by a party which represents a minority of people across Northern Ireland.”
The collapse was welcomed by Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister. “With Sinn Féin never in Stormont to make Northern Ireland work this was an overdue conclusion to the present pointless talks.”