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UK minister says effort to sustain Northern Ireland's unity government 'increasingly grim'

  • Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson and leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, center, and party members Arlene Foster and Nigel Dodds MP, speak to the media at Stormont, Northern Ireland, Tuesday June 2, 2015. The British and Irish governments convened Northern Ireland's quarreling parties in a bid to save their Catholic-Protestant coalition.  (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

    Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson and leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, center, and party members Arlene Foster and Nigel Dodds MP, speak to the media at Stormont, Northern Ireland, Tuesday June 2, 2015. The British and Irish governments convened Northern Ireland's quarreling parties in a bid to save their Catholic-Protestant coalition. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)  (The Associated Press)

  • Sinn Fein's Conor Murphy, speak's to the media at Stormont, Northern Ireland, Tuesday, June 2, 2015.  The British and Irish governments convened a meeting Tuesday of Northern Ireland's quarreling parties, in a bid to save their Catholic-Protestant coalition. Sinn Fein has refused to back cost-saving welfare reforms as demanded by Britain and supported by the Democratic Unionists, the main Protestant party. The deadlock means Northern Ireland's government could run out of money by the end of July unless Britain resumes direct control.  (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

    Sinn Fein's Conor Murphy, speak's to the media at Stormont, Northern Ireland, Tuesday, June 2, 2015. The British and Irish governments convened a meeting Tuesday of Northern Ireland's quarreling parties, in a bid to save their Catholic-Protestant coalition. Sinn Fein has refused to back cost-saving welfare reforms as demanded by Britain and supported by the Democratic Unionists, the main Protestant party. The deadlock means Northern Ireland's government could run out of money by the end of July unless Britain resumes direct control. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)  (The Associated Press)

  • Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson and leader of the Democratic Unionist Party speaks to the media at Stormont, Northern Ireland, Tuesday, June 2, 2015. The British and Irish governments convened Northern Ireland's quarreling parties in a bid to save their Catholic-Protestant coalition.  (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

    Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson and leader of the Democratic Unionist Party speaks to the media at Stormont, Northern Ireland, Tuesday, June 2, 2015. The British and Irish governments convened Northern Ireland's quarreling parties in a bid to save their Catholic-Protestant coalition. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)  (The Associated Press)

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."