Stormont talks set to resume

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By Deborah McAleese, PA

Talks aimed at restoring Northern Ireland's powersharing government are due to resume today between political parties.

The parties missed last week's deadline for forming an executive after negotiations broke down and Sinn Fein said it would not nominate a deputy first minister.

However, all parties have been invited by Secretary of State James Brokenshire to participate in another round of talks at Stormont Castle today in a bid to break the deadlock.

The UK and Irish governments have said they want the talks to have an agreed agenda and regular round table meetings.

The two governments have described it as "an intensive process to drive progress".

The main stumbling blocks to a successful outcome to the talks are the divisive issues of legacy and an Irish Language Act.

Mr Brokenshire had warned that if no agreement was reached another snap election may have to be called.

But he told MPs last week that he does not believe there is an appetite to go back to the polls.

He said he does not want to see a return to direct rule from London but has to keep all his options open.

The DUP and Sinn Fein blamed each other for the breakdown in talks.

Due to the lack of agreement between the two largest parties a senior civil servant has had to take control of Stormont's finances.

David Sterling is to use emergency powers to release cash and resources to departments until a new budget is in place.

He said that while the procedures can keep cash flowing to public services it is "not a substitute for a budget agreed by an executive".

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

An election was called after Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness quit as deputy first minister in protest against the DUP's handling of a botched green energy scheme.

Sinn Fein insisted it would not accept DUP leader Arlene Foster as first minister until the conclusion of a public inquiry into the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme.

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