Latest: Arlene Foster 'disappointed' after parties fail to agree powersharing deal

Update 4.28pm: Democratic Unionist leader Arlene Foster has said today that she is disappointed an agreement to restore powersharing has not been reached in Northern Ireland, suggesting a deal will now have to wait until at least the autumn.

Mrs Foster expressed frustration as talks wound up without a breakthrough at Stormont Castle in Belfast.

It is expected the process will now be effectively parked over the summer months, to resume in the autumn.

"We are disappointed we don't have an agreement this afternoon," said the DUP leader.

Mrs Foster said her party would continue to work on issues over the summer, but acknowledged the intensity of engagement would drop during the holiday period.

"We are going to keep working at it through the summer and hopefully we can come to an agreement later on in the year," she said.

"We are certainly up for an agreement, we are up for devolution."

Update 2.44pm: Powersharing talks in Northern Ireland look set to be parked for the summer, with Sinn Féin acknowledging a deal will not materialise before the autumn.

Party sources said they expect the UK and Irish governments to suspend the negotiations, potentially later today, with the aim of restarting the process in a number of months.

Discussions continued inside Stormont Castle today, but no substantive progress was made.

The Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein, the two parties whose sign-off is required to form a devolved government, remain at loggerheads over a range of issues.

Sticking points include the shape of legislation to protect Irish language speakers, the DUP's opposition to lifting the region's ban on same-sex marriage, and mechanisms to deal with the legacy of the Troubles.

Earlier, Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said if a breakthrough did not come today then one would not be forthcoming on this side of the summer recess.

While MLAs have not been sitting in Parliament Buildings since March's snap election, the Assembly's official summer recess starts on Friday.

Next week will also witness the "Twelfth of July" - the key fixture in the Protestant loyal order marching season.

Negotiations were always unlikely to succeed if they stretched into mid-July, when they would be framed against the backdrop of the heightened community tensions that traditionally surround the Orange Order commemorations.

On Monday, Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire said he felt a powersharing executive could still be established this week.

His optimism was not shared by the parties at Stormont, with the DUP and Sinn Fein continuing to blame each other for the impasse.

DUP leader Arlene Foster has claimed Sinn Fein is more concerned with adding to its "shopping list" of demands rather than seeking compromises to restore powersharing.

Responding on Monday, Sinn Fein's Stormont leader Michelle O'Neill insisted all her party was seeking was "basic rights".

"If that's a shopping list then I am very proud of that shopping list - because it's about delivering people their rights," she said.

The devolved institutions imploded in January when Mrs Foster was forced from office after Sinn Fein's then deputy first minister, the late Martin McGuinness, quit.

That was in protest at the DUP's handling of the renewable heat incentive (RHI), a botched scheme that left the administration facing a £490 million overspend.

Mr McGuinness's move triggered March's snap Assembly poll and subsequent months of faltering negotiations to restore a devolved government.

Prime Minister Theresa May gave senior colleagues an update on the talks at the regular weekly meeting of Cabinet at 10 Downing Street.

Mrs May's spokesman told reporters that the PM said that "while progress had been made, gaps between the parties still remain".

Following calls from Labour for Mrs May to travel to Belfast to help find a resolution, the PM's spokesman said: "The Prime Minister spoke with five parties and invited them to Downing Street. She has talked with the leaders of the DUP and Sinn Fein at the weekend. We continue to hope to make progress.

"The PM updated Cabinet today, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is there today. The Prime Minister has been closely involved so far and will continue to be so."

Asked if Mrs May felt Mr Brokenshire was doing a good job, the spokesman said: "Of course. He has been working constantly since the elections in Northern Ireland to try to help secure an agreement to restore the devolved assembly. He has been working constantly and is doing a good job."

The spokesman confirmed that if a settlement is reached, legislation will be needed for it to allow the executive to be restored, as the statutory deadline for agreement has now been passed.

"The statutory deadline has been missed, but we still believe that a resolution can be found and we are urging the parties to continue focusing all their efforts on achieving this," said the PM's spokesman.

Update 1.04pm: Prime Minister Theresa May gave senior colleagues an update on the talks at the regular weekly meeting of Cabinet at 10 Downing Street.

Mrs May's spokesman told reporters that the PM said that "while progress had been made, gaps between the parties still remain".

Following calls from Labour for Mrs May to travel to Belfast to help find a resolution, the PM's spokesman said: "The Prime Minister spoke with five parties and invited them to Downing Street. She has talked with the leaders of the DUP and Sinn Fein at the weekend. We continue to hope to make progress.

"The PM updated Cabinet today, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is there today. The Prime Minister has been closely involved so far and will continue to be so."

Asked if Mrs May felt Mr Brokenshire was doing a good job, the spokesman said: "Of course. He has been working constantly since the elections in Northern Ireland to try to help secure an agreement to restore the devolved assembly. He has been working constantly and is doing a good job."

The spokesman confirmed that if a settlement is reached, legislation will be needed for it to allow the executive to be restored, as the statutory deadline for agreement has now been passed.

"The statutory deadline has been missed, but we still believe that a resolution can be found and we are urging the parties to continue focusing all their efforts on achieving this," said the PM's spokesman.

Earlier: A breakthrough in powersharing talks in the North must come today or the institutions are set to remain in cold storage over the summer, Simon Coveney has said.

Mr Coveney suggested the coming hours at Stormont Castle would be make or break in terms of a restoration of devolution in the short term.

"Back on road to Belfast early - parties really must make political breakthrough today if NI assembly is to be back before summer recess," Mr Coveney tweeted this morning.

While MLAs have not been sitting in Parliament Buildings since March’s snap election, the Assembly’s official summer recess starts on Friday.

Next week will also witness the "Twelfth of July" - the key fixture in the Protestant loyal order marching season.

Negotiations are unlikely to succeed against the backdrop of the heightened community tensions that traditionally surround the Orange Order commemorations.

On Monday, Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire said he felt a powersharing executive could still be established this week.

His optimism was not shared by the parties at Stormont, with the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Féin continuing to blame each other for the impasse.

Sticking points include the shape of legislation to protect Irish language speakers, the DUP’s opposition to lifting the region’s ban on same-sex marriage, and mechanisms to deal with the legacy of the Troubles.

On Monday, Mr Brokenshire told the House of Commons that the UK Government remained focused over the "crucial days ahead" on establishing a coalition executive, despite a deadline for agreement lapsing last week.

Mr Brokenshire’s warning of "profound and serious implications" if Thursday’s deadline was missed prompted speculation that he could call another snap election or impose some form of direct rule from Westminster.

But he instead opted to give the talks a few more days.

While he did not set a new deadline - four have already passed - Mr Brokenshire warned he would soon have to step in to pass a Stormont budget.

DUP leader Arlene Foster has claimed Sinn Fein is more concerned with adding to its "shopping list" of demands rather than seeking compromises to restore powersharing.

Responding on Monday, Sinn Féin’s Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill insisted all her party was seeking was "basic rights".

"If that’s a shopping list then I am very proud of that shopping list - because it’s about delivering people their rights," she said.

The devolved institutions imploded in January when Mrs Foster was forced from office after Sinn Féin’s then deputy first minister, the late Martin McGuinness, quit.

That was in protest at the DUP’s handling of the renewable heat incentive (RHI), a botched scheme that left the administration facing a £490 million overspend.

Mr McGuinness’s move triggered March’s snap Assembly poll and subsequent months of faltering negotiations to restore a devolved government.


More in this Section

€920,000 worth of drugs seized in Dublin

Irish writer Anna Burns wins Man Booker Prize

Cork City Council faces big legal bills over flood planning

Richard Bruton confirmed as Denis Naughton's replacement as Communications Minister


Breaking Stories

Theatre: Dublin Theatre Festival

Live music: Paul Brady & Andy Irvine - Cork Opera House

GameTech: Set for next generation hardware

A tonic for the troops: Rhys Darby went from the New Zealand army to Flight of the Conchords

More From The Irish Examiner