Northern Ireland

NI budget planned amid deadlocked Stormont talks

Parliament Buildings at Stormont Image copyright AFP
Image caption The DUP and Sinn Féin have been involved in talks to end a 10-month deadlock at Stormont

Plans have been put in place to begin legislating for a Northern Ireland budget at Westminster, as a further round of talks to restore power-sharing at Stormont broke up without agreement.

Party whips at Westminster have been asked to allow time for a budget bill.

Talks between the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Féin to end their deadlock will resume on Wednesday.

The government will update the House of Commons on the negotiations, which have broken through another deadline.

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire will assess the chances of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Féin agreeing a deal.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Sinn Féin is understood to have asked the government to release funding for Troubles inquests

The parties have been involved in negotiations in an attempt to end a 10-month deadlock that has left Northern Ireland without a devolved administration.

They have failed to reach an agreement in spite of numerous rounds of discussions, with Sinn Féin's demand for legislation to give official status to the Irish language viewed as the main dividing issue.

The government had warned that it it would have no choice but to intervene, starting with legislation for a budget for Northern Ireland, if a deal is not made this week.

The BBC has learnt that plans have been made to begin work on a budget bill in the House of Commons in the week beginning 13 November.

Image copyright PA
Image caption James Brokenshire will assess the state of the talks on Tuesday night

A budget for the 2017-18 financial year had not been put in place by the Northern Ireland Executive before its collapse in January in a bitter dispute between the DUP and Sinn Féin.

In the absence of executive ministers, civil servants have been using emergency powers to keep money flowing to public services.

But they have only been able to use 95% of Northern Ireland's block grant from Westminster.

On Monday night, Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire extended the deadline for the talks between the DUP and Sinn Féin, reporting that "progress had been made" during the day.

He said the parties had made "certain additional requests" of the government, which it would have to consider.

The BBC understands that Sinn Féin have asked the government to release £150m to fund inquests for Troubles-related deaths.

The money had been pledged as part of the Fresh Start political agreement at Stormont in 2015 but had not been made available.

It is understood that the parties have yet to agree on other key issues.

During a break from the talks on Tuesday, Sinn Féin's Conor Murphy refused to confirm or deny that funding for Troubles legacy issues was under discussion.

He said his party do not want to give details about the inter-party talks as "this is a very key time".

Mr Murphy added that "credibility" is an issue the longer the talks go on.

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