BELFAST, Northern Ireland – The British minister responsible for Northern Ireland says negotiations to sustain the region's Catholic-Protestant government amid a budgetary deadlock are looking "increasingly grim."
Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers spoke Tuesday after overseeing fruitless talks between the Irish Catholics of Sinn Fein and British Protestants of the Democratic Unionist Party.
Sinn Fein is blocking the introduction of United Kingdom-wide welfare reforms in Northern Ireland. The dispute has cost Northern Ireland's government tens of millions in penalties and could force Britain to resume direct control of the Northern Ireland budget by the end of July.
That move would be required to keep public services funded. It also would underscore dysfunction at the heart of Northern Ireland's 8-year-old coalition.
Villiers said: "The situation looks increasingly grim ... and time is running out."