Powersharing deal needs compromise but still doable, says N Ireland Secretary

The Government has urged Northern Ireland's political leaders to look to the "bigger picture" and strike a compromise that will see powersharing restored.

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire encouraged the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein to finally resolve their differences so the region can look to a more positive future - one he insisted was filled with opportunities.

As the clock ticks towards an effective deadline of the end of the month, when the Westminster Government will have to intervene to set a budget for Stormont's rudderless public services, Mr Brokenshire told a business breakfast that, while the atmosphere in talks between the parties had improved, there was still work to do to reach a deal.

James Brokenshire
James Brokenshire

"Do I think it is possible? Yes, I do," he told the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (Acca) Business Leader Forum in Belfast.

"I think this is eminently doable, but it still requires that spirit of compromise and I would encourage the leaders of both main parties to underline the leadership they have both already shown to continue to do that and to look beyond the issues that have separated them.

"It is doable, it is achievable - but we are not there yet."

Mr Brokenshire added: "Ultimately it is their decision, and so I would encourage anyone with that sense of influence, that ability to underline that bigger picture of what it means to Northern Ireland, to see that the parties do find that spirit of compromise, do show the leadership they have shown in the past and get on and get back to Stormont and get on with serving the needs of everyone across the whole of Northern Ireland."

Northern Ireland has been without a first and deputy first minister since January and a functioning executive since March after late Sinn Fein deputy first minister Martin McGuinness resigned over the DUP's handling of a botched renewable heat scheme.

That rift exposed more deep-seated differences between the two main parties, none more so than the Irish language which is now the main obstacle to a return to devolved government.

Sinn Fein insists it will not re-enter a coalition executive in Belfast without an Irish language Act to protect Gaelic speakers.

The DUP would agree to a wider cultural Act incorporating protections for the Ulster Scots culture.