SDLP leader: British direct rule must not and cannot be the Plan B

The leader of the SDLP has called for Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionists to publish what progress has been made on powersharing talks.

With the latest deadline to revive Stormont a week away, Colum Eastwood said the parties should come clean with the public on the negotiations or else offer a "plan B".

"Week after week, we have heard that they have made 'progress' but with no detail and no substance. They need to put their cards on the table," the SDLP leader said.

"The time for negotiating behind the scenes is over. The public deserve to know why they are paying the price for political failure."

The DUP and Sinn Féin remain at loggerheads over the Irish language and culture, leaving the spectre of Westminster direct rule looming ever larger over Northern Ireland.

Powersharing imploded in January when the late Sinn Féin deputy first minister Martin McGuinness resigned amid a row over the DUP's handling of a botched renewable heat energy scheme. The falling out subsequently exposed deeper rifts in powersharing.

Four UK Government deadlines have been and gone in the last 10 months.

Mr Eastwood added: "After 10 months with no government, it appears that the only thing set to be delivered by the DUP and Sinn Féin is British direct rule. A prospect that should make all of us very worried and very angry."

The SDLP said the two parties must have the courage to compromise or offer their alternatives to London running all of Northern Ireland's affairs.

"The SDLP is clear, British direct rule must not and cannot be the Plan B," Mr Eastwood said.

"Direct rule doesn't just bring the British Government into a more powerful position - it gives Arlene Foster and the DUP a blank cheque. That's a compromise the SDLP is not prepared to make."

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