Foster calls for Westminster-set budget as Northern Ireland talks fail again

16 Feb 18

Arlene Foster has called on Westminster to set Northern Ireland’s budget after a breakdown in talks to reform a shared government between the country’s two biggest parties.

Failed attempts at reconciliation between the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein prompted DUP leader Foster to say: “It is now incumbent upon Her Majesty’s government to set a budget and start making policy decisions about our schools, hospitals and infrastructure.”

Foster, whose party agreed to support Theresa May’s Conservative government in Parliament after the election last year, said there was “no prospect” of reaching a deal for a power-sharing government in Northern Ireland between DUP and Sinn Fein.

MPs had previously warned of a Northern Ireland budget “D-day” due to a lack of funding for public services and infrastructure projects.

Northern Ireland secretary Karen Bradley said: “The position of the UK government remains the same: devolved government is in the best interest of everyone in Northern Ireland and is best for the union.”

Bradley is set to give a more detailed statement when parliament resumes next week.

Power-sharing talks between nationalists and unionists have been going on for 13 months with little success.

Foster added: “Restoring a sustainable and fully functioning devolved government will remain out goal, but we will not accept a one-sided deal.”

The latest breakdown comes after May and Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar visited Belfast on Monday to offer encouragement on a potential deal.

Varadkar tweeted about his disappointment in the failed talks saying: “Power sharing and working together are the only way forward for Northern Ireland.”

Talks reportedly broke down over a continued disagreement on an Irish language act, which would allow – amongst other things – the right for education through Irish and bilingual signage on public buildings and roads.

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