LONDON – The leaders of Northern Ireland's main political parties said Tuesday that they have not reached a deal to restore the collapsed Catholic-Protestant power-sharing government — and there is unlikely to be agreement before the fall.
Arlene Foster of the Democratic Unionists — Northern Ireland's biggest British Protestant party — said her party and Irish nationalists Sinn Fein have not reached a deal, but "we're going to continue talking throughout the summer."
Sinn Fein leader Michelle O'Neill said she was "disappointed but not surprised that a deal has not yet been done."
Northern Ireland has been without a functioning government for six months. Britain has warned it may restore direct rule if no new administration can be formed, although it has avoided setting any deadlines for doing so.
U.K. Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire said Tuesday that while it was clear a government could not be formed "in the immediate term," Britain would "work with the parties to achieve a successful outcome."
Brokenshire said he would "reflect carefully in the coming days on any further steps which may be required to support the continued effective provision of public services in Northern Ireland."
The power-sharing administration has been on ice since it collapsed in January over a scandal-plagued green energy program, and several deadlines to reach a deal have passed without success.
The parties have blamed each other for the impasse that threatens power-sharing, the key achievement of Northern Ireland's 1998 peace accord.
Sticking points include the DUP's opposition to same sex marriage and is Sinn Fein's demand for an act protecting the Irish language — a major totem for Irish nationalists that has raised the hackles of loyalists.
Tensions have also been inflamed by a deal between British Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative Party and the DUP, which has promised to support May's minority government on key parliamentary votes.
Sinn Fein leaders have complained that the DUP's new role means the British government is no longer impartial as required by the Good Friday accord.
Sinn Fein's O'Neill said the stalled talks represented "a monumental failure" by May.
O'Neill said May "is in hock to the DUP."
"She has set back decades of work that has been done here," O'Neill said.