Northern Ireland: May urged to 'take forward equal marriage'

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption Sinn Féin president Mary Lou Mc Donald said'a draft agreement was in place

She said that Sinn Féin would not be publishing, at this time, the details of the draft agreement which covered areas including an Irish Language Act.

The Northern Ireland government collapsed in January 2017 amid a scandal surrounding an ill-fated renewable energy scheme that jeopardized the sharing of power, a key achievement of the 1998 peace treaty, ending decades of violence.

The talks collapsed after almost four weeks of negotiations between the DUP and Sinn Féin on setting up an Northern Ireland executive, which has been without a government for 13 months.

She said the parties also agreed that the Stormont Executive's sensitive justice ministry would start to be allocated in a conventional manner from 2022, rather than being a jointly agreed DUP/Sinn Fein nomination.

The talks ended on Wednesday after the DUP declared there was "no current prospect" of a deal.

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said on Thursday there would be more talks on restoring devolved government in Northern Ireland, but the timing was uncertain.

"We had reached an accommodation, everyone involved in the process understood that, and the DUP failed to close the deal in relation to that and abruptly called a halt to proceedings yesterday", he said.

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption Arlene Foster could'not recommend what was on the table
Media playback is unsupported on your device Media caption Arlene Foster could'not recommend what was on the table

She urged the parties to "reflect" and think about the future.

But Ms Villiers insisted the success of failure of negotiations "ultimately depends on Northern Ireland's leaders and in particular its two largest parties, the DUP and Sinn Fein".

Several UK-government-set deadlines to restore the Northern Ireland administration had passed without success, raising the spectre that the British government might impose direct rule from London on Northern Ireland.

It has been widely suggested that a compromise proposal which had raised expectations that a deal was close late last week - prompting the Prime Minister and Taoiseach to travel to Stormont on Monday - involved an Irish Language Act, an Ulster Scots Act and an overarching Culture and Respect Act that incorporated the provisions contained in the other two acts.

Michelle O'Neill said had the agreement been honoured, they would have been in government today.

Dublin TD McDonald said there would be no quotas on Irish speakers for jobs, nor would the language be forced on anyone.

Foster said Wednesday the DUP was willing to "to reach an accommodation on language and cultural issues".

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