NewsNorthern Ireland

SDLP: Sinn Fein and DUP preparing to make deal to restore power sharing

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood speaks to the media at Stormont Castle
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood speaks to the media at Stormont Castle

The DUP and Sinn Fein are preparing to strike a deal to restore powersharing in Northern Ireland, the SDLP has said.

Colum Eastwood claimed it is not a matter of if the Executive is restored, but when.

Speaking ahead of round-table talks between the main parties at Stormont Castle on Wednesday evening, the SDLP leader said his assessment of the ongoing negotiations is that both Sinn Fein and the DUP want back into government together.

However, he warned that a deal to restore the Stormont institutions cannot be signed off while the DUP and Tory party continue to negotiate a parliamentary agreement.

"There will be a deal, whether next week or in the autumn, so let's get on with it.

"People need to see certainty here. It is clear people want in. Sinn Fein want in, the DUP want in," said Mr Eastwood.

However, he added: "If people think anyone is going to sign a deal here without knowing what is going to come from London - that doesn't make any sense at all.

"We are all a bit preoccupied with what is going on, or not going on, in London.

"It is quite clear that the DUP and Tory Party aren't quite sure what they are doing, but they need to get on with it because it is affecting the process here.

"People need to know what is coming from that deal."

Referring to reports that the DUP has asked for significant investment in health and infrastructure in Northern Ireland as part of a parliamentary deal, Mr Eastwood said any money secured is for the whole of the region.

"The DUP need to understand that if there is a financial package coming that it is not the DUP's money.

"It is all of the people of Northern Ireland's money.

"We will be asking hard questions about where that money goes.

"We can't have a re-run of the past 10 years when the previous Stormont Executive effectively re-partitioned Northern Ireland economically," he said.

Parties have until June 29 to re-establish a coalition executive or they face the prospect of direct rule being reimposed from Westminster.

Northern Ireland has been without a powersharing Executive since March and without a first and deputy first minister since January, when the late Martin McGuinness's resignation forced Mrs Foster from her job as first minister.

The institutions collapsed amid the bitter row over the RHI controversy.

The talks to restore the institutions take place as negotiations continue in London between Prime Minister Theresa May and the DUP to strike a parliamentary deal to support her minority Government.

The anticipated arrangement has forced the UK Government to reject suggestions its commitment to act with impartiality in Northern Ireland - as set out in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement - will be fatally undermined by any pact with the DUP.