N. Ireland Politics

New NI election suggestion unhelpful, says Sinn Féin

James Brokenshire Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire has been hosting talks at Stormont

Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill has criticised Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire after he said another election could be called if political talks at Stormont end in failure.

A Northern Ireland Assembly election was held last week, with parties now trying to strike a deal to restore the power-sharing executive.

There would be "significant consequences" if those discussions end in deadlock, warned Mr Brokenshire.

Mrs O'Neill said that was "unhelpful".

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption The suggestion that another snap election could be held was unhelpful, said Michelle O'Neill (left)

Last week's election saw an end to the unionist majority at Stormont, with Sinn Féin now holding just one seat fewer than the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

Northern Ireland's political parties have three weeks to reach agreement on forming a new executive, and the first of those weeks is at an end.

If no executive is formed, another election can be called, and ultimately power could return to the UK parliament at Westminster for the first time in a decade.

'Solution-finding mode'

Mrs O'Neill said the UK government needed to accept its responsibilities in the negotiations.

"Clearly the biggest failure and the biggest stumbling block to progress is the British government and their approach to all of this," she added.

"I think James should be more concerned about getting down to business, getting round the table, and actually delivering on what he has previously committed to."

Image caption Nigel Dodds said the DUP was 'dedicated' to resorting a power-sharing executive at Stormont

DUP leader Arlene Foster said her party was in "solution-finding mode" for the negotiations.

And her party's deputy leader, Nigel Dodds, said there were "serious indications" that parties that went into opposition in the Assembly's previous mandate were considering re-entering the executive.

The North Belfast MP added: "We're dedicated to getting Stormont back up and running, and it remains to be seen whether others will."

"And whether those who walked away last time from government this time will actually step up and take their places that they are entitled to in the executive.

"I think there are certainly indications that is being seriously considered."

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