Breakthrough unlikely before Northern Ireland power-sharing deadline

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The British government planned a last-minute drive Monday to salvage talks on resuming Northern Ireland’s power-sharing arrangement, despite republican party Sinn Fein insisting that a three-week negotiating process had “run its course.”

“Even at this stage, I urge political parties to agree to work to form an executive and provide people here with the strong and stable devolved government that they want,” Britain’s Northern Ireland Secretary, James Brokenshire, said in an appeal late Sunday.

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

“I am determined to see a functioning executive in place at Stormont,” he said, referring to the seat of government in Belfast.

Under the agreement, Sinn Fein, which would like to merge with Ireland, shares power with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which advocates remaining as part of Britain.

Michelle O’Neill, Sinn Fein’s leader in Northern Ireland, said late Sunday that the “talks process has run its course.”

“Sinn Fein will not be supporting nominations for speaker or the executive tomorrow,” she said.

The party would need to nominate a deputy first minister to work with former first minister Arlene Foster, from the DUP, for the devolved government to resume.

If the deadline passes without agreement, the British government will be forced to choose between calling another election; extending the talks; or returning Northern Ireland to direct rule from London.

A political impasse began in January with the resignation of Sinn Fein politician Martin McGuinness as deputy first minister, forcing new elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

McGuinness, a former Irish Republican Army (IRA) commander, died last week.

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