Talks collapse a 'body blow' as Derry business faces the 'greatest economic challenge of our generation'

Jennifer McKeever.
Jennifer McKeever.

The collapse of the Stormont talks yesterday represents another "body blow" for Derry businesses, which are facing "the greatest economic challenge of our generation".

Thus said the local Chamber of Commerce President, Jennifer McKeever, after DUP leader Arlene Foster signallged there was no prospect of a Stormont deal in the current rounds of talks.

The local businesswoman said the development was “disappointing and frustrating”.

Ms. McKeever said: “Today’s announcement by DUP leader Arlene Foster that there is ‘no current prospect’ of a deal to restore power sharing is disappointing and frustrating for our business community.

“The collapse of the latest round of talks will come as another body blow for businesses in the North West which are facing the greatest economic challenge of our generation."

The Airporter director said the lack of political direction was especially worrying given uncertainty over the potential implications of Brexit for businesses in the border region.

“Thirteen months is too long to be without devolved government and the lack of leadership from Stormont in the Brexit negotiations has been particularly frustrating for the business community.

“The North West has had no voice in this process so far because of a lack of political leadership to restore devolved power at Stormont. It is vital that we have a fully functioning devolved government as soon as possible in order to achieve the best possible Brexit deal for Northern Ireland and the border areas.

“This process has already taken too long. Our political leaders must not walk away from this, they must re-focus and re-double their efforts to restore the Northern Ireland Executive as a matter of urgency," she said.

Pulling the plug on the latest round of talks yesterday, DUP leader Arlene Foster said: "I have made it consistently clear that unionists will not countenance a stand alone or free standing Irish Language Act. Sinn Fein’s insistence on a stand alone Irish Language Act means that we have reached an impasse."

She added: "In our view, there is no current prospect of these discussions leading to an Executive being formed.

"It is now incumbent upon Her Majesty’s Government to set a budget and start making policy decisions about our schools, hospitals and infrastructure. Important decisions impacting on everyone in Northern Ireland have been sitting in limbo for too long."

In response, Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill said: “Sinn Féin engaged, we worked in good faith, we stretched ourselves.

“We had reached an accommodation with the leadership of the DUP. The DUP failed to close the deal.

"They have now collapsed this process. These issues are not going away.

“Sinn Féin are now in contact with both governments and we will set out our considered position tomorrow. The DUP should reflect on their position.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood warned the impasse represented "a dangerous and difficult moment for the future of this part of Ireland".

He called for the content of the unacceptable 'accommodation' allegedly at the centre of the collapse to be published.

"This is a failed negotiation which now threatens to hand power to a Tory/DUP Government. The SDLP is clear that this cannot be allowed to happen.

"The balance underpinning this place is that Nationalism and Unionism must work together. That’s a reality that some still fail to face. We need to get back to the spirit envisaged by the Good Friday Agreement, that both traditions on our island are accommodated and respected.

The absence of a devolved institution means that the Irish and British Governments need to establish the Intergovernmental Conference so that all that we built up in our peace process is not lost,” said Mr. Eastwood.