Theresa May urges Northern Ireland's political leaders to make 'one final push' to restore executive


Theresa May has urged Northern Ireland’s political leaders to make “one final push” as she said it is possible to see the power-sharing agreement restored “very soon”.

It comes after the Prime Minister travelled to Belfast amid mounting speculation that a deal could be on the horizon in Northern Ireland – ending a 13-month political stalemate. 

While Ms May said “differences remain” between the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Fein at Stormont, she said: “I think there is a basis of an agreement here”.

The Prime Minister continued: “It’s been 13 long months since we last saw devolved government here, and I think we are now at the point where it’s time for the local elected representatives to find a way to work together and to deal with, to tackle, the many pressing issues facing Northern Ireland.

“I believe it should be possible to see an executive up and running very soon.” 

The executive collapsed in January 2017 following controversy over the DUP leader Arlene Foster’s handling of a contentious green energy scheme. Since then, several rounds of talks, aiming to resolve the political crisis, have collapsed. 

Speaking before Ms May, the Irish Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar – who had cancelled previous engagements with the Welsh First Minister to travel to Belfast on Monday – also said “we have to be patient”, but added he was hopeful for an “accommodation” between the political parties in Northern Ireland.

And earlier, Ms Foster, who leads the party that is responsible for propping up Ms May’s fragile Government in Westminster, said that, while no deal had been reached, good progress had been made during crunch talks at Stormont. 

“Good progress has been made and we will continue to work towards more progress,” she told reporters, adding that her party wanted to achieve a deal that was “good for everyone” and that was “sustainable” in the future. 

Mary Lou McDonald, the Sinn Fein leader, added that she believed “we are close to an agreement”, but said the two parties “are not exactly there just yet”.

But she said: “There is nothing insurmountable if there is the political will to reach an agreement.” 

Before the meeting at Stormont 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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