NI talks: DUP ‘rules out’ pre-Christmas Stormont deal

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Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said at the weekend that the DUP would not be distracted by calendar-led initiatives
By Gareth Gordon
BBC News NI political correspondent

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has ruled out the prospect of a deal to restore devolution in Northern Ireland before Christmas, the BBC understands.

It has been boycotting Stormont since early 2022 in protest over post-Brexit trade rules.

The government was hoping to restore devolution before parliamentary recess on Tuesday.

A party spokesperson said: “The DUP is condition-led not calendar-led.”

There was speculation a restoration deal was close, but the DUP position is that the process is not yet complete.

It is also understood the party’s assembly members (MLAs) are not meeting later as they normally do on Mondays.

Talks about a financial offer of £2.5bn should Stormont return are due to resume at Hillsborough later.

What will the parties be discussing?

The money includes a lump sum to settle public sector pay claims and a new “needs-based” funding formula for public services.

Transport staff, teachers and health care workers have all staged strikes in recent months over pay, causing widespread disruption across Northern Ireland.

Stormont departments say they cannot settle pay disputes because of budget pressures.

Party leaders in Northern Ireland have agreed that the current financial offer from the UK government is not enough.

Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris has said he was prepared to go back to the prime minister and see what more is possible.

The DUP has been urged by other parties not to hold up a potential return to Stormont and to “seize the opportunity” to restore devolution.

Sinn Féin’s John Finucane said striking public sector workers were “surrounded by uncertainty” over their finances at Christmas and many other people were struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.

“It’s time that he made that decision and it’s time that he showed political leadership,” Mr Finucane said.

On Saturday, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson told party members that he would not be “distracted by hype” and “calendar-led initiatives” in relation to a deal.

Writing in an email, he said the financial package did “not deal with our long-term challenges” and that he was hopeful the government would “advance on their offer on Monday”.

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