Northern Ireland faces direct rule from London as power-sharing talks breakdown


No deal: Political crisis in Northern Ireland set to clash with start of Brexit talks

TALKS HAVE BROKEN DOWN between the two parties capable of forming a new Northern Irish executive raising the prospect of direct rule being imposed on the region from London.

Sinn Féin leader Michelle O’Neill said that the “talks process has run its course,” as a deadline approached for a deal to be made. 

The Northern Irish peace process settlement means that a party from the pro-unification Irish community and the unionist community must agree to work together in office to ensure a stable political situation. 

However, the relationship between Sinn Féin and coalition partners the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) broke down in January over a variety of political disputes – including alleged corruption in the ‘cash for ash’ scandal, the failure to pass an Irish Language Act, and increased divisions over the Brexit referendum.

Read more – In the spotlight: The collapse of power sharing in Northern Ireland

Irish foreign secretary Charlie Flanagan warned: “This is a critical time for Northern Ireland. We are on the cusp of triggering of Article 50 by the UK Government. It is the strong wish of the Irish government to see power sharing re-established”. Tory Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire will have to decide whether Northern Ireland should face a third election in under a year or move to direct rule from London, removing democratic accountability in the North of Ireland. 

Brokenshire said he had been “working intensively with the political parties and with the Irish government to find a way forward”. 

Read more – Borderline: Northern Ireland in the midst of Brexit

The 2017 election saw a surge in support for Sinn Féin, almost overtaking the DUP as the North’s most popular party. British unionists lost their majority in Stormont for the first time ever. 

Those who want Irish unification are concerned that Brexit – which Northern Ireland voted against – could see the return of border posts, with damage to trade, open citizenship, and common regulations that were in place within the European Union. Brexit would also upset elements of the peace process, including co-operation between the administrations in Dublin and Belfast.

Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the right of Northern Ireland to rejoin the EU as part of Ireland should be part of any Brexit deal. Debates on Irish unification have been reinvigorated by the economic challenges posed by the Tory plan to exit the EU and the single market. 

Picture courtesy of Rovingl

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