Northern Ireland deadline looms as Westminster votes on Queen’s Speech

Northern Ireland deadline looms as Westminster votes on Queen’s Speech

Today is the deadline for Northern Ireland’s two main parties—nationalist Sinn Fein and the pro-union DUP—to come to a power-sharing

Photo: Niall Carson/Press Association

Photo: Niall Carson/Press Association

Today is the deadline for Northern Ireland’s two main parties—nationalist Sinn Fein and the pro-union DUP—to come to a power-sharing agreement. Northern Ireland has remained without a devolved government since March 2, when a snap election returned an indecisive result.

Today’s deadline is the result of two extensions granted in March and April after an unbreakable deadlock. If the rival parties can’t agree on a grand coalition by 1500 GMT, they run a very real risk of returning Northern Ireland to direct rule under Westminster—an option opposed by all sides.

Of course, the DUP has engaged in a power-sharing deal (of sorts) in Westminster too. There, the party managed to wrangle $1 billion for Northern Ireland in return for lending its 10 parliamentary votes to Theresa May’s minority government on the most crucial pieces of legislation—the budget, national security and Brexit.

This deal will be put to the test for the very first time today when parliament votes on the Queen’s Speech—effectively a vote of confidence in Theresa May’s government. With the support of the DUP, the prime minister is expected to survive. For now.