Irish PM calls for fresh Northern Ireland talks next month

Prime Minister (Taoiseach) of Ireland Leo Varadkar arrives at a news conference at Government buildings in Dublin, Ireland, March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

DUBLIN (Reuters) - The British and Irish governments should redouble efforts next month to broker a deal that would restore a power-sharing government in Northern Ireland after a year of political stalemate, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Tuesday.

The British region has been without a devolved executive - a central plank of its 1998 peace deal that ended three decades of violence - since Irish nationalists Sinn Fein pulled out in January last year, saying they were not being treated as equal partners by the pro-British Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

Each side has blamed the other for repeated failures to reach a deal, the most recent triggering the imposition of a budget directly by London in the latest step toward reimposing direct rule of the region.

Acknowledging that the impact of Brexit negotiations on the future of the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland had complicated the political talks in Belfast, Varadkar called for a fresh round once EU leaders endorse a joint stance on their future relationship with Britain on March 23.

"The next few weeks will rightly see a focus on Brexit. ... We face enormous challenges from Brexit, which has undoubtedly changed the political climate in Northern Ireland," Varadkar said in the text of a speech due to be delivered at an event in Washington celebrating 20 years of peach in Northern Ireland.

"After that, I believe the period after Easter (April 1) should see a redoubled effort on the part of both Governments and all of the parties in Northern Ireland to seek agreement on the restoration of the institutions."

Describing the lack of a devolved government as "corrosive and damaging" for the province, Varadkar said the governments may need to present their own proposals to help the parties break the deadlock, as they have successfully done in the past.

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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