“Significant progress” made in Stormont talks

“Significant progress” made in Stormont talks

“I am happy to explore with the NHS what the situation is now in terms of the ability of women from Northern Ireland to access safe and legal abortion in NHS Scotland and whether any improvements can be made”, the First Minister said at the time, in response to a question from Green party co-leader Patrick Harvie MSP.

Earlier on Thursday afternoon Brokenshire said: “The parties here are continuing to engage intensively with a view to agree the formation of an Executive”.

“I believe that a resolution can be found and I’m urging the parties to continue focusing all of their efforts on achieving this”, Brokenshire told reporters with less than four hours to go.

But with no sign of a deal the sitting was cancelled to allow talks to continue tonight and into the weekend. “It is the successful outcome of this process that matters”.

The alliance jeopardises the United Kingdom government’s crucial role as an “honest broker” in Northern Ireland where power-sharing talks remain unresolved and they will not be seen to be impartial if they are locked into a parliamentary deal, at Westminster, with one of the Northern Ireland parties.

While they are reported to have made progress on majority, the two main parties remain divided on language.

Some analysts said the deal between May and the DUP could ultimately motivate Sinn Fein to return to devolved government but that they may take time to see how it works out first. “That prize remains achievable”.

The split between Sinn Fein and the DUP appears to be over a handful of crucial issues, the biggest of which is Sinn Fein’s demand for an Irish language act to give Irish parity with English in Northern Ireland.

The parties were struggling to overcome differences on an Irish Language Act.

Language is considered a sensitive issue of cultural identity, much like the flying of flags in Northern Ireland.

The last executive fell in January when Sinn Féin’s then deputy first minister, the late Martin McGuinness, quit in protest at the DUP’s handling of the RHI – a scheme that left the administration facing a £490million overspend.

Sinn Féin’s vote surged in the subsequent assembly election but parties failed to share power within the six-week timeframe. He warned that failing to do so would have profound and serious implications, including the possibility that the region would lose its devolved autonomy and once again come under Westminster’s direct rule.

Instead of calling another election, Mr Brokenshire extended the deadline at Stormont.