Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis has held meetings with the leaders of Sinn Féin and the DUP at Stormont tonight as part of efforts to restore the powersharing administration.

Mary Lou McDonald led her party's delegation in the discussions. Sinn Féin has called on the British government to intervene in a row over Irish language legislation.

Mr Lewis flew into Belfast today for further talks with local politicians, saying he is exploring "all options" in his efforts to keep powersharing on track.

At around 7.30pm this evening, Sinn Féin members left Stormont in a three-car-convoy, which drove past the media without stopping for comment, despite previously indicating they would.

A Sinn Fein spokesperson later said: "We have had an initial meeting. We're seeking more information and clarification.

"As and when we have the clarity we need, we will speak to the media."

DUP leader Edwin Poots and his choice as Northern Ireland's next First Minister, Paul Givan, also met Mr Lewis this evening.

They left the meeting at around 8.45pm, and drove away from Stormont House without stopping to speak to the media.

It comes amid a stand-off between Sinn Fein and the DUP over the appointment of a new First and deputy First Minister, and the introduction of Irish language legislation provided for in the New Decade, New Approach deal.

Failure to come to an agreement would collapse the devolved Executive.

Before the meeting, Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald told reporters their call to push Irish language legislation through Westminster was the "obvious way forward."

She said: "As you know, 48 hours ago we offered up a solution to this impasse.

"That is that the cultural package including Acht Gaelige, the Irish language act, goes through Westminster.

"That's the option now, that's how we sort this out efficiently and we are now going in 48 hours later to see what the British Government's response to that solution is.

"It's the obvious way forward."

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

Earlier the DUP's Economy Minister Paul Frew warned such a move risked destabilising devolution.

He said: "We have devolution and the Secretary of State needs to be careful that he doesn't do anything that would undermine devolution at this time."


Latest Brexit stories


Meanwhile, Britain is keeping all options on the table as a response in a dispute with the European Union over part of their Brexit deal covering Northern Ireland, Brexit minister David Frost has said, adding that talks were not making much progress.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he could trigger emergency measures in the Northern Ireland Protocol after its implementation at the beginning of this year has seen disruption to trade from Britain.

"All options remain on the table as regards steps forwards. Obviously we would prefer to find negotiated ways forward if we can. If that's not possible obviously ... other options remain on the table," Mr Frost told the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee.

Peace in Northern Ireland is at risk because of how part of Britain's Brexit divorce deal with the European Union is being implemented, Mr Frost said.

"It's also why it's super important that we keep the purpose of the nature of the (Northern Ireland) protocol in mind which is to support the Belfast Good Friday Agreement and not to undermine it, as it risks doing," he told the committee.

Asked about the uncertainty the row was causing for businesses, he said: "There comes a point where the unsatisfactoriness of the current situation and the attempts to operate it contributes to the uncertainty and instability.

"And then a responsible effort to bring stability and certainty can improve the situation rather than make it more difficult.

"So obviously if we judge that's the situation then we look at the range of options that might bring further stability."

He told MPs the issue of the Northern Ireland Protocol had become more difficult because of the "weakening of consent" for the arrangements in unionist groups.

"The difficulty that we have had since the start of the year, or at least the end of January, is there has been a very visible weakening of consent in one community in Northern Ireland for the arrangements in the protocol and that's obviously produced instability and uncertainty," he said.

"Our frustration ... is that we're not getting a lot of traction, and we feel we have put in a lot of ideas and we haven't had very much back to help move these discussions forward, and meanwhile ... time is running out", he said.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has reiterated that the protocol is a technical trading arrangement.

He said the protocol is about managing disruption of Brexit, it is not about constitutional matters.