February 20, 2018 / 3:30 AM / a month ago

Irish PM calls for urgent restoration of Northern Ireland government

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar called for the urgent restoration of Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government on Monday after talks to end a year-long political stalemate broke down yet again last week.

Ireland's Taoiseach (Prime Minister), Leo Varadkar, speaks outside Stormont House, in Belfast, Northern Ireland February 12, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

Both the British and Irish governments have said they want to get the talks back on track but neither have suggested when Irish nationalists Sinn Fein and the pro-British Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) should return to the negotiating table.

The British province has been without a devolved executive for over a year since Sinn Fein withdrew from the compulsory coalition with their arch-rivals that has been central to a 1998 peace deal that ended three decades of violence there.

“The (Irish) government will continue to engage with the parties in Northern Ireland and the British government to support the urgent formation of a new executive,” Varadkar said in a statement after meeting with Sinn Fein and speaking to British Prime Minister Theresa May by phone.

Before meeting Varadkar, Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said there should be no delay in resuming talks that she and both governments believe were close to a successful outcome before the DUP pulled out over a disagreement on additional rights for Irish-language speakers.

DUP leader Arlene Foster reiterated her call for London to take further financial control of the region, saying her party remained committed to devolution “but not at any price”.

Britain has already had to take steps towards governing the region directly for the first time in a decade and many fear a return to full British direct rule would further destabilise a delicate balance between nationalists and unionists.

Britain has said it is absolutely committed to restoring the power-sharing administration and Varadkar repeated on Monday that his government did not want to see the introduction of direct rule across the border.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin; editing by John Stonestreet

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