Sinn Féin did not seek Stormont agreement, says Foster

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Monday’s sitting of the assembly to nominate ministers was suspended by the parties

Sinn Féin was “not in agreement-finding mode” during talks to save Northern Ireland’s political institutions, Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Arlene Foster has said.

Negotiations to form a new power-sharing executive after this month’s snap election collapsed on Sunday, ahead of Monday’s 16:00 deadline.

The two biggest parties, the DUP and Sinn Féin, blamed each other.

Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill said the DUP did not have “the right attitude”.

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Sinn Féin’s decision not to nominate a deputy first minister is damaging, said Arlene Foster

On Sunday, her party said it would not be nominating a candidate for the position of speaker or for the executive office.

As the talks at Stormont Castle have collapsed, the Northern Ireland Office must determine the way ahead.

With no deal in sight, Monday’s Northern Ireland Assembly session to appoint a first and deputy first minister was suspended.

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A portrait of former DUP leader Ian Paisley was keeping watch over Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams

Mrs Foster said she doubted whether Sinn Féin had ever been serious about reaching agreement during three weeks of talks.

“These talks have failed because there wasn’t a recognition of everyone’s mandates,” said the former first minister.

“The government of Northern Ireland is not a game – it is very serious.

“The decision of Sinn Féin not to nominate today and block the creation of a new executive is very regrettable and damaging to all the people we represent.”

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The clock at Stormont’s Great Hall is ticking for Northern Ireland’s political institutions

Analysis: Mark Devenport, BBC News NI political editor

It was “simply the worst” talks process ever, said the Ulster Unionists’ chief negotiator.

And there is not a lot of people rushing to contradict him.

Blame will be thrown in different directions.

Read more: Stormont in limbo – what next?

Mrs O’Neill, Sinn Féin’s leader at Stormont, said her party would be “standing firm”.

It wants to see the implementation of legislation to give official status to the Irish language, a bill of rights and a way forward on dealing with the legacy of Northern Ireland’s Troubles.

“Unfortunately, the DUP maintained their position in relation to blocking equality for citizens – that is a problem,” said Mrs O’Neill.

“We said consistently that we need to see implementation of issues that were previously agreed.

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Michelle O’Neill said Sinn Féin would be standing firm over its demands

“That is a major stumbling block – the DUP didn’t approach it with the right attitude.”

Mrs O’Neill also said UK government representatives “did not play their role” in the way they should have done.

The deadlock came after a snap election on 2 March brought an end to Stormont’s unionist majority and the DUP’s lead over Sinn Féin was cut from 10 seats to one.

Under Northern Ireland’s power-sharing agreement, the executive must be jointly run by unionists and nationalists, with the largest party putting forward a candidate for first minister.

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Martin McGuinness resigned in January after almost a decade as deputy first minister

Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuiness quit as deputy first minister in January in protest against the DUP’s handling of a botched green energy scheme.

The party said it would not share power with Mrs Foster as first minister until the conclusion of a public inquiry into the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme.

Mr McGuinness, who had been suffering from a rare heart condition, died last week at the age of 66.

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire faces a choice between calling another election, imposing direct rule from Westminster or playing for time in the hope some compromise can be found.

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James Brokenshire must determine the way ahead for Northern Ireland’s politics

Outgoing Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt said the talks had been “a complete shambles”, and queried Mr Brokenshire’s decision not call all of the parties together during the process.

With no executive in place to agree a budget, responsibility for Stormont’s finances is set to switch to the permanent secretary at the Department of Finance.

Mr Nesbitt said that meant an “unelected civil servant is about to become arguably the most important man in Northern Ireland”.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood called on Mr Brokenshire to “provide some space” for a new set of talks with an independent chair.

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Mike Nesbitt said the Stormont talks process had been a “complete shambles”

“Let’s not accept that this can’t be done – this can be done and it can be done quickly,” he added.

Naomi Long, the Alliance Party leader, said failing to form a new executive would have “dire” consequences, as she called for an extension to the talks deadline.

“We should be under no illusion that the failure will have an impact on the country,” the East Belfast MLA added.

People Before Profit’s Gerry Carroll said MLAs’ salaries should be cut if Stormont is mothballed.

Sinn Féin did not seek Stormont agreement, says Foster}

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