Theresa May arrives in Northern Ireland for crunch talks amid Sinn Fein and DUP deal speculation


Theresa May is in Northern Ireland for crunch talks with political leaders amid mounting speculation that a deal could be close on restoring the executive, ending a 13-month stalemate. 

The executive collapsed in January 2017 following controversy over the handling of a green energy scheme by Arlene Foster – the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) – and several rounds of talks to resolve the crisis have failed.

But speculation grew on Monday that a deal could be imminent between Sinn Fein and the DUP after Leo Varadkar, the Irish Taoiseach, also announced he would be travelling to Belfast after cancelling a meeting with the Welsh First Minster on Monday.

And on Saturday, Sinn Fein’s Stormont leader, Michelle O’Neill, said that talks are likely to draw to a close this week. 

Arriving on the Stormont estate on Monday, the Prime Minster was welcomed by Karen Bradley, who was recently appointed as Northern Ireland Secretary and is responsible for political stability in he region.

A Downing Street official added that the Prime Minister will make clear later today that the Government remains fully committed to the restoration of power-sharing, devolution and the Belfast Agreement.

Ms May is expected to tell the parties that she believes progress has been made in recent days and reiterate that the UK and Irish governments – as part of the three-strand approach set out in the Belfast Agreement – will continue to work with them to see an agreement reached.

According to Downing Street, Ms May will also restate her strong belief that a fully functioning executive, empowered to take decisions over local matters, is the best way to serve the interests of the whole community.

Before the meeting at Stormont, however, the Prime Minister met aircraft workers at Bombardier’s factory in Belfast after the company’s trade battle victory in the United States last month. 

Bombardier’s bitter trade dispute with Boeing had threatened jobs at the Belfast plant after the United States trade authorities sided with the US company and proposed a 292 per cent tariff on the import of its rival’s planes into the country

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