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May urges battling parties in Northern Ireland to end rift
Last Updated: 2017-11-22 11:20 | Xinhua
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British Prime Minister Theresa May intervened Tuesday in the political rift that has left Northern Ireland without a devolved assembly since March.

May met with leaders of Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) at 10 Downing Street to discuss the ongoing stalemate which risks direct rule from London being imposed on the region.

May met separately with DUP leader Arlene Foster and Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams.

Adams, who announced at the weekend that he was standing down as the party's All-Ireland president, was accompanied at the Downing Street talks by the party's leader in Northern Ireland Michelle O'Neill and party vice president, Mary-Lou McDonald.

May said after the meeting: "I made clear the determination of this government to re-establish the fully-functioning, inclusive, devolved administration that works for everyone in Northern Ireland."

"I also reiterated our steadfast support for the Belfast Agreement and its successors. For their part, both the DUP and Sinn Fein expressed their commitment to seeing Stormont back up and running."

May said it was clear from Tuesday's discussions that the issues dividing the two parties were relatively small, focusing mainly around culture, legacy, identity, and the future stability of the devolved institutions.

"While not in any way underestimating the challenges involved, I believe that a way forward can be found and an agreement reached. It is imperative the parties re-engage in intensive discussions next week aimed at resolving the outstanding issues so that the assembly can meet and an executive be formed."

Under the Northern Ireland peace agreement of 1998 which ended three decades of conflict, a devolved administration was established in Belfast, based on the two main parties, Sinn Fein and the DUP, agreeing to share power. That arrangement collapsed almost a year ago, leading to the collapse of the assembly in March.

Foster said after meeting May that the DUP would continue to work towards the restoration of devolution.

In a sign that highlights the continuing friction in Northern Ireland, the DUP said Sinn Fein "must stop glorifying the murders of innocent people". Foster said remarks made about IRA terrorism at Sinn Fein's annual gathering in Dublin at the weekend were "quite disgraceful".

Adams rejected Foster's allegations, saying they were an excuse not to strike a deal, according to local media.

The restoration of the assembly at Stormont is seen as critical, considering that the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic is still a stumbling block in Brexit negotiations with the EU.

When Britain quits the EU in 2019, the border between the Irish Republic, which is part of the EU, and British-controlled Northern Ireland will effectively become the only UK-EU land border.

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