LONDON ( Associated Press) – A senior British official will meet with leaders of the rival Northern Ireland party on Monday to re-establish a power-sharing government amid uncertainty after Irish nationalist party Sinn Féin won a historic victory in local elections.
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis will meet with leaders of the five parties that formed the last working or devolved government in February.
“The people of Northern Ireland deserve a stable and accountable government and I will continue to urge the leaders of Northern Ireland’s political parties to fulfill their responsibilities and create an executive as soon as possible,” Lewis said.
“I will be in close touch with the party leaders, but the parties have to agree to go ahead,” he said.
Sinn Féin, which seeks union with Ireland, overtook the rival Democratic Unionist Party in last week’s Northern Ireland assembly elections and became the first Irish nationalist party to top the vote in Northern Ireland’s history.
The paramilitary group was a milestone for a party long associated with the Irish Republican Army, which sought to use violence to pull Northern Ireland out of British rule.
But it is not clear what role Sinn Féin will play in the government now. While it has the right to the role of Northern Ireland’s first minister, a working executive cannot be formed unless the DUP, as the largest unionist party, has the role of deputy minister under the territory’s mandated power-sharing rules. does not agree to perform.
The DUP has said it will not return to the government until their demands on the post-Brexit customs regime are met.
Federalists strongly opposed the new customs and border checks on some goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of Britain, which were introduced after Britain left the European Union.
The special arrangement was to prevent the withdrawal of a difficult land border with the Republic of Ireland. But federalists argue that the new Czechs create a barrier between Northern Ireland and the rest of Britain that undermines their British identity, and seek to eliminate them.
Northern Ireland has been without a functioning government since February when the leader of the DUP stepped down as first minister in protest of the post-Brexit rules, known as the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Britain’s Conservative government is trying to persuade the European Union to make major changes, but talks have faltered. Officials have acknowledged that they must address post-Brexit challenges to bring stability to Northern Ireland.