DUP rules out swift return of powersharing Executive

Adams agrees there are unresolved issues as agreement remains some way off

The Democratic Unionist Party has ruled out any immediate return of the powersharing Executive at Stormont.

In a blow to the British and Irish governments’ hopes that a deal to bring back Stormont is close, the DUP said on Saturday “significant areas of difference” remained with Sinn Féin.

In a statement, the party said: “Any notion that an agreement is imminent and that the Assembly will meet next week has no basis in fact given the present state of the talks.”

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said on Saturday he agreed with the DUP that there were unresolved issues.


Speaking in Dublin, he added: “The reasons they haven’t been resolved is because the DUP has to get itself into a psychological space which so far it has resisted and that is the rights which people will have everywhere in these islands, that they can also have in the North.”

The Stormont government collapsed in January following the resignation of the late Martin McGuinness as deputy first minister, in a row over the DUP’s handling of a botched renewable heat energy scheme.

Months of talks aimed at restoring powersharing have so far failed, with former partners Sinn Féin and the DUP unable to reach agreement on a number of key areas, including an Irish Language Act and legacy issues.

The DUP insisted it remained “committed to trying to secure an agreement that can be supported by unionists as well as nationalists”.

“Any talks outcomes will be judged against the criteria we published in our March Assembly election manifesto,” it said.

"We will not however be a party to facilitating an outcome that is one-sided in nature and not in the best interests of Northern Ireland, " the DUP added.

The party also said while progress had been made in the talks, “significant areas of difference” remained and “much more work” was necessary.

‘Still hopeful’

Speaking on Friday before the DUP’s statement, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he was “still hopeful” an agreement could be made.

“Things looked quite positive during the week,” he said during his first official visit to Derry. “They look less positive today, but I think it’s still possible.”

Mr Varadkar told reporters that he did not believe there was any benefit to another election in the North, and he “wouldn’t even want to contemplate a return to direct rule” from London.

“I’m getting updates on a regular basis from Minister [Simon] Coveney and I know the teams were very optimistic earlier on in the week,” he said.

“They’re a bit more pessimistic at the moment so it’s impossible to say whether an agreement can be made but I really think it should be made.

“There are a lot of key decisions to be made at the moment.

“When it comes to Brexit the clock is ticking, it’s later than people may think, and I’d really like Northern Ireland to have a unique voice and an elected voice during this very important period.

“And of course there are important decisions to be made around budgets and health and education so politicians should always put the interests of the public first and that would involve forming an Executive,” said Mr Varadkar.

He said that while he and the British prime minister Theresa May were willing to become involved in the talks process at any point if it would be beneficial, ultimately the success of the talks was down to the North’s political parties.

“If there is going to be an agreement it is going to have to be an agreement between the DUP and Sinn Féin and the other parties.”

On Saturday, the Taoiseach met with the North West Strategic Growth Partnership – a cross-Border body which aims to encourage growth in the “city region” of the northwest – and visited the Peace Bridge and Derry’s walls.

He reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to cross-Border projects in health and education, as well as the construction of the stalled A5 dual carriageway between Aughnacloy and Derry.

“The financial commitment is there from the Irish Government and I’m really keen to see that road commence next year and to talk about co-funding it into the future.

“It’s important economically for Derry and Donegal but it’s also an important political statement that this part of the country, this part of the island, isn’t going to be left behind,” he said.

The Taoiseach acknowledged the uncertainty Brexit had created along the Border, and said that he was “committed to making sure that Derry and Donegal work together and drive growth through this region”.

“I’m reassured from talking to Michel Barnier and the task force [on Article 50 negotiations] and other prime ministers that Irish issues are very much understood and are very much to the fore, particularly in relation to Northern Ireland.

“My absolute desire, and the ambition of the Irish government, is to have a new relationship with the UK that is as similar as possible to the one that we have at the moment, which is having no barriers to trade.

“If that isn’t possible and if the UK doesn’t want that then the fall-back would be having some form of special arrangement for Northern Ireland recognising the unique history and geography of this place.

Additional reporting: PA

Freya McClements

Freya McClements

Freya McClements is Northern Editor of The Irish Times