THE Northern Ireland Secretary has failed to break the ongoing political deadlock in the North following a series of meetings with its party leaders this week.
Chris Heaton-Harris undertook meetings with the SDLP, DUP and Alliance Party in London yesterday in a bid to overcome the issues which saw the devolved institutions at Stormont collapse in February 2022.
Today he has met with leaders of the UUP and Sinn Féin parties at Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland.
Some had hoped the talks would lead to a breakthrough at Stormont before Westminster's summer recess, which begins today.
But the DUP’s Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has confirmed that the unionist party’s boycott of their power-sharing duties would continue until the British Government “bring forward measures in the House of Commons that address the constitutional issues that we have highlighted”.
Lamenting the lack of progress made on the Stormont stalemate, SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood today said there should be “no summer recess on the efforts to restore devolution”.
“People across our communities are experiencing hardship and pain as the impact of the breakdown of democratic governance steadily gets worse,” he said.
“People waiting for hospital treatment, families where working parents haven’t had a fair pay rise in years, people who can’t afford soaring mortgage costs or childcare bills won’t be getting a break over the next few months and neither should political leaders who have a responsibility to form a government,” he added.
“People are quickly running out of patience with the glacial pace of progress on these issues. “A summer of drift cannot be allowed to happen.”
Following her meeting with Mr Heaton-Harris this morning, Sinn Féin vice-president Michelle O’Nelli, who is Northern Ireland’s First Minister Designate, said the ongoing stalemate is “totally unsustainable”.
“We have just had our meeting with the Secretary of State and we have made it very clear to him that the current position is totally unsustainable, this vacuum isn’t good enough, all it is serving is to punish the public,” she said.
“Whilst people within the DUP take themselves off on summer holidays, workers and families are left struggling and worrying about how they are going to deal with the cost-of-living issues,” she added.
“We have impressed upon the Secretary of State that both himself, the British Government and the Irish Government must do more; this position just isn’t tenable."