N.Ireland parties fail to strike power-sharing deal, talks to continue


(Adds UK minister and Sinn Fein comments)
    By Ian Graham and Kylie MacLellanBELFAST/LONDON, July 4 (Reuters) - The leaders of Northern
Ireland's two main political parties said on Tuesday talks on a
new power-sharing executive in the British province had broken
down and no agreement was expected in the near future.
    Northern Ireland's political scene has been in crisis since
the collapse in January of the coalition mandated under a 1998
peace deal that ended three decades of sectarian
Protestant-Catholic violence in which 3,600 died.
    The Irish Catholic nationalist Sinn Fein and the Protestant
pro-British Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) have been in talks
since a March election to form a new power-sharing government.
Each has blamed the other for missing repeated deadlines - most
recently last Thursday.
    The British government, which is jointly overseeing the
talks alongside Ireland's government, warned on Monday that it
would have to step in to manage public spending in the province,
and might call new elections unless a deal was reached soon.
    Both parties said on Tuesday that no deal had been agreed
and that progress was not expected in the near future. A source
in Sinn Fein said a deal was unlikely before September.
    "Obviously we are disappointed that we don't have an
agreement this afternoon and indeed we've been disappointed for
quite some time that we haven't been able to reach an
agreement," DUP leader Arlene Foster told reporters.
    "However we are going to keep working at it over the summer
and hopefully we can come to an agreement later on in the year."
    Sinn Fein blamed the impasse on British Prime Minister
Theresa May, who struck a separate deal last week with the DUP
to support her minority government in the British parliament -
something they say has compromised the government's neutrality.
    "What this constitutes is a monumental failure on behalf of
Theresa May. She has set back decades of work that has been done
here throughout the years," said Sinn Fein's Northern Ireland
leader, Michelle O'Neill.
    Commentators see little prospect of agreement during the
July marching season, when pro-British unionists celebrate the
1690 victory by Protestant King William of Orange over his
Catholic rival at the Battle of the Boyne.
    Britain'sNorthern Ireland minister, James Brokenshire,
signaled he would be prepared to wait for a deal. He said the
government wanted to remain engaged in the talks, and that the
overriding priority was to reach an agreement on restoring the
    The DUP and Sinn Fein alike have been buoyed by historic
electoral breakthroughs in recent months - Sinn Fein in regional
elections in March and the DUP in Britain's general election
last month - and both are reluctant to  be seen to give ground
to their rivals.
    "The Sinn Fein electorate will not consent to be governed by
DUP on DUP terms," Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said.
    The Irish and British governments have warned that failing
to forge a deal would have "profound and serious" implications
and limit Northern Ireland's influence in Britain's negotiations
to leave the European Union, although no one is forecasting a
return to serious violence.

 (Reporting by Michael Holden in London and Conor Humphries;
writing by William James; editing by Andy Bruce and Mark
 (([email protected]; +44 207 542 3213; Reuters
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