N. Ireland Politics

Stormont crisis: Is devolution disappearing in NI?

A give way sign beside the statue of Edward Carson at Stormont Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The DUP and Sinn Féin remain deadlocked on several issues, with little sign of compromise

Sinn Féin's assessment that the talks process to restore power-sharing at Stormont is not working will come as no surprise.

Even though at times over the past few weeks both the UK and Irish governments have exuded optimism, that has not been shared by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) or Sinn Féin.

Sources close to the parties hinted in recent days that a deal was unlikely.

Key areas surrounding language, rights and culture remain to be resolved.

Against this backdrop, and with time running out, it has been apparent that a deal was becoming more and more unlikely with each passing day.

So where does that leave the talks process and the prospect of a deal?

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said any new discussions will have to be 'meaningful'

There does not seem to be a spirit of trust between the two parties and questions are being asked on either side about whether their rival talks negotiators are seriously interested in striking a deal.

Asked about further talks, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said any fresh discussions had to be "meaningful".

He clearly thinks the DUP has not engaged in a serious way about Sinn Féin's desire to see an Irish language act and provision for same-sex marriage.

'Day devolution disappeared'

For its part, the DUP has always insisted that Sinn Féin has put too many barriers in place and has introduced too many red lines.

Some within the party think Mr Adams is more interested in matters south of the Irish border than in a restoration of devolution at Stormont.

In a direct response on Wednesday to Sinn Féin's statement, the DUP MP Gregory Campbell insisted that the rebuilding of an executive is "being held back by a narrow political agenda".

Image caption Gregory Campbell said Sinn Féin's call for more money for welfare is 'simply not a runner'

Looking at the political process close up, the optics are not good and unless the atmosphere changes there is little sign that the inter-party discussions can be fruitful.

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire has always had little room to manoeuvre, and his main tactic so far has been to give the parties space and time.

On Wednesday he conceded that when it comes to keeping the money flowing to Northern Ireland's public services he cannot let the discussions drift on endlessly.

Unless there is change of heart, time is going to be called on this round of discussions and a Stormont budget will be presented at Westminster.

Mr Brokenshire maintains that that should not be seen as direct rule for Northern Ireland.

But some will see 13 November - when a budget bill is planned for introduction at Westminster - as the day devolution finally disappeared.

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