After more than 400 days of on and off-again negotiations, Democratic Unionist party (DUP) officials say there is no hope for talks to form a new power-sharing government in Northern Ireland. The party’s leader, Arlene Foster, has called on the government in London to now directly rule the province once more from London, sidestepping the elected members of the assembly or regional parliament, and dealing a blow to the aspirations of power-sharing as enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. That agreement ended more than three decades of political and sectarian violence that claimed more than 3,600 victims and injured 36,000 more.
At the centre of the dispute is a demand from Sinn Fein, which represents Irish nationalists who want the British to be reunited with the Republic of Ireland to the south, for an Irish language act that would place Gaelic on the same legal footing as English. Foster’s DUP, which represents a small majority of loyalists who want to maintain a four-century old link to Britain, are vehemently opposed to any such language act.
Since United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May lost her majority in last June’s general election, she is relying on support from Foster’s 10 members of parliament to govern. As such, Foster holds undue sway over May, and is not representing the wishes of all in Northern Ireland. Similarly, it was Foster’s own mishandling of a renewable energy scheme for homeowners that caused the previous power-sharing government to collapse. The cost of that scheme ballooned to £500 million (Dh2.57 billion). The reality too is that Foster’s DUP needs to keep a close grip on May lest a looming Brexit deal weaken Northern Ireland’s place in the UK.