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Northern Ireland since May 2016: developments

Published Thursday, February 15, 2018

Overview of political developments in Northern Ireland since the Assembly election of May 2016, providing a background to the collapse of talks on re-forming a Northern Ireland Executive in February 2018.

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The political landscape in Northern Ireland has changed significantly since the DUP and Sinn Féin were returned as the two largest parties following the May 2016 Assembly election.

A breakdown in relations between the two parties led to the resignation of former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and the subsequent collapse of the power-sharing Executive. This resulted in another Assembly election in March 2017, but political negotiations failed to reach a breakthrough in the formation of an Executive

There are a number of factors impacting on relations between the DUP and Sinn Féin. Sinn Féin has accused the DUP of failing to honour previous commitments on an Irish Language Act, and differences remain around other areas such as dealing with the legacy of the Troubles and same-sex marriage. There were also concerns around the potential mismanagement of the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme, which is now the subject of an independent public inquiry. The issue of Brexit is another complicating factor, as the DUP and Sinn Féin take opposing views on the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union.

There was increasing speculation over the weekend of 10 and 11 February 2018 that a deal to restore power-sharing was imminent. However, despite the presence of the Prime Minister and Taoiseach in Belfast on Monday 12 February, the talks concluded without agreement. At the time of publication a way forward remains unclear, although it is likely that the UK Parliament will need to legislate for a Northern Ireland budget.


Commons Briefing papers CBP-8231

Authors: Mark Sandford; Raymond McCaffrey

Topics: Devolution, Elections, Northern Ireland Assembly

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