The possibility that negotiations aimed at restoring government in the North would resume this week has faded after Sinn Fein said there was no basis for the talks process to start up again.
British Direct Ruler James Brokenshire held bilateral meetings with the DUP and Sinn Fein on Monday after British prime minister Theresa May last week called for a fifth phase of talks this year to begin.
Following Mr Brokenshire’s meeting with Sinn Fein, the party’s Northern leader Michelle O’Neill said there was “no basis for resuming talks at the moment”.
Ms O’Neill has repeatedly said any talks process - to deal with issues around the Irish language, marriage equality and the legacy of the past - needed to be “meaningful”. She said that in the absence of a deal with the DUP, the responsibility was on the British and Irish governments to spell out how they intended to ensure implementation of previous agreements.
The DUP’s Simon Hamilton claimed Sinn Fein seemed to have “checked out” of politics in the North.
“Once again, Sinn Fein use the excuse of previous agreements not being honoured. An excuse which, time and again, has been proven to hold no water,” he said.
“We remain ready to re-engage in talks but Northern Ireland cannot go on indefinitely without ministers to take important decisions.”
Michelle O’Neill said the British government “did not put any process on the table that would allow for the delivery of rights or a process that we could sign up to.
“So as we stand here today, the onus remains on the British government and indeed the Dublin government to deliver the rights based issues; rights that are available to citizens elsewhere on these islands and in that case, that would pave the way for the Executive to be restored.”
Ms O’Neill added: “What we can’t do is go round and round a hamster wheel in endless talks.”
DIRECT RULE POLICING
It was reported that, as a result of the Stormont standoff, the Policing Board cannot exercise any of its functions due to the absence of politician members, raising concerns over the oversight of PSNI and MI5 activity.
Set up following the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the Policing Board is responsible for monitoring the performance of the PSNI. However, it emerged this week that political representatives have not sat on the board since the collapse of the Stormont executive in January, and civil servants have said it can no longer fulfil its functions.
Dee Fennell of Saoradh said the development showed that British policing is unaccountable and irreformable in the context of occupation.
He argued out that Sinn Fein and others had put forward the Policing Board and other accountability measures in order to justify their support for the PSNI and other state agencies, but this was no longer the case.
“Using their own rationale, their continuing support for such agencies in the absence of those very same ‘accountability measures’ means they have negated any argument for their continuing endorsement of corrupt British policing in Ireland,” he said.