Agreement 'not possible' in Northern Ireland as government talks fail

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said that "if we revert to direct rule, and if Sinn Fein refuse to form an Executive, clearly we have no control over what direct rule minister might do".

In reply, Mr Brokenshire said: "I can say to you that additional funding has been committed in respect to the issues on national security, combating terrorism, from the UK Government, over and above the core funding that is provided to the PSNI from the executive".

Brokenshire said the lack of an agreement on the budget for the province and the impact it would have on public services meant there had to be a fixed outcome soon. It added: "We will continue to oppose Tory austerity policies and to support those most in need in our communities".

Mr Brokenshire said there was "an overwhelming desire" among politicians and the public for "strong and stable devolved government".

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Northern Ireland's power-sharing arrangement means nationalists and unionists, who want to remain part of the United Kingdom, have to work together, with the First Minister and Deputy First Minister leading the executive. "It is essential therefore that the intensity of discussions is stepped up, with renewed intent and focus and I believe that a positive outcome remains possible", he continued.

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire pledged yesterday to keep "all options under consideration" in his efforts to form a new executive.

Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionists have blamed each other for the breakdown of the powersharing talks on Sunday night. "Unfortunately the DUP maintained their position in relation to blocking equality, delivery and equality, for citizens".

Talks collapsed on Sunday night after Sinn Fein announced it would not be nominating a deputy first minister in the Assembly on Monday.

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"Some of us fear that Sinn Féin has now decided that the time for devolution is over and that it is moving on to a different phase, where its main ambitions lie southwards", he said.

Mr Brokenshire said it had become clear that "there remain significant gaps between the parties over issues surrounding culture and identity".

In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is battling for the province to hold a referendum on independence from Britain in light of the division over Brexit.

While no one is predicting the political impasse risks returning Northern Ireland to the violence between Irish nationalists and pro-British unionists that killed 3,600 people in three decades before a 1998 peace deal, it could increase sectarian tensions and freeze decision-making as Britain prepares to leave the European Union.

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The DUP emerged with 28 seats despite suffering a backlash over allegations of financial mismanagement, while Sinn Fein got 27 of 90 seats available at the Stormont Assembly, becoming once more the second-largest party.

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