Foyle MP Elisha McCallion tonight squarely pointed the finger at the DUP for the failure to strike a deal aimed at restoring the Stormont Assembly.

The DUP collapsed the talks after the two parties had seemed to have reached an accommodation all issues. The DUP's hardline rump are understood to have balked at plans for a standalone Irish Language Act and stopped the deal from going through at the last stages.

Sinn Fein MP for Foyle Elisha McCallion said the DUP had failed to close on the accommodation which had been there.

"It is now entirely down to the DUP as to whether there will be a deal going forward," she said.

"There is no pointing in continuing with circular talks. It erodes public confidence and credibility in the process.

“But these issues are not going away and Sinn Féin will now engage with both governments on the next steps. The DUP should reflect on their position.”

The DUP leader Arlene Foster said there was no prospect of a return to devolved government in Northern Ireland in the near future.

She claimed that significant distance remained between the parties and called on the British government to set a budget and start making policy decisions.

"Sinn Fein’s insistence on a stand alone Irish Language Act means that we have reached an impasse," said Mrs Foster.

The Stormont government collapsed when the former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness resigned in January 2016.

It is understood the draft deal, which includes a standalone Irish Language Act, was accepted by a significant contingent of Stormont DUP MLAs but was rejected by the party's Westminster MPs.

There are suggestions that the proposed deal was deliberately leaked by hardline elements within the DUP 'to spook the horses' and derail the Irish Language Act.

Sinn Fein have rejected suggestions that DUP negotiators were surprised at the inclusion of an Irish Language Act in the deal.

"They're negotiating with us for 13 months now," said one source. "Do you really think they didn't know our position? The work on the deal is done. It's entirely up to them now."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said he was 'very angry' after the negotiations, which he said were 'not set up or conducted properly', failed.

"They have failed the people at home he said," he said.

"After decades of trying to find a way for our two communities to work together we are now retreating from that reality.

"We can't walk back. We have to find a way to live, work and govern this place together."

He said that direct rule was not an option.

"Arlene Foster or anybody else can't stop that progress," Mr Eastwood said.

"We have to get back to working together, we can't allow this moment to be the destruction of everything we have achieved.

"We can't allow the British government or the DUP to think we will let them govern, that cannot be allowed to happen."

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