Irish PM to Meet May as Hopes Rise for Northern Irish Accord

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"I hope there will be an agreement and, yes, I think we can do business with [DUP leader] Arlene Foster", she told the broadcaster.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which holds the key to forming a government and is an ally of May's government in London, refused to meet with Varadkar because he is the leader of another party.

Newly-elected Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald spoke today after Varadkar left for Belfast and stated that her party does not believe there is "anything insurmountable left to resolve" in talks to restore the Executive in Northern Ireland.

The DUP and Sinn Féin look closer to a deal after a supposed breakthrough last week.

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"I've had full and frank conversations with the five parties and I've also met with the Taoiseach".

Visiting Belfast together, British Prime Minister Theresa May and his Irish counterpart Leo Vradkar got involved in what is believed to be final stages of the talks to form a new government in the United Kingdom region after nearly one year since the parliamentary election was held in March 2017.

The declaration of an agreement was "not likely" to occur however, as confirmed by a source from DUP.

Since the March 2017 election, Irish nationalists and pro-British unionists were unable to find common ground on divisive issues such as the Irish language act and legacy issues inherited from decades of violence popularly known as the Troubles.

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In a sign of the growing momentum towards a deal, the Taoiseach cancelled a scheduled meeting with Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones in Dublin to travel to Belfast.

Her visit comes after Sinn Féin gave its clearest signal yet that a deal to restore the Stormont executive could be in place within days.

The December deal on the first phase of the EU withdrawal talks signalled that the issue could be dealt with in one of three ways: through the overall Brexit deal as Mrs May wants, through some "specific solutions" proposed by the United Kingdom government or by maintaining "full alignment" with single market and customs union rules.

Sinn Fein demands for Irish-language protections emerged as the main sticking point.

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Such hopes proved unfounded, but all parties said an accord was in sight.

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