Stormont crisis: DUP to meet to decide on power-sharing movePublished10 minutes agocommentsCommentsShareclose panelShare pageCopy linkAbout sharingImage source, Charles McQuillanImage caption, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has been involved in talks with the government on post-Brexit tradeBy Jayne McCormackBBC News NI political correspondentDemocratic Unionist Party (DUP) officers are to meet today to decide whether to back a deal to return to power-sharing at Stormont.The DUP is the assembly’s second largest party but it has been blocking a functioning assembly and executive since February 2022.The party is facing pressure to say if it will back a new deal to end the impasse.Its officer board is expected to meet at some point later.Party leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson is a member of the board, along with 11 others whose support is critical if the party’s Stormont boycott is to end. ‘Yay or nay time’A final proposal is expected to be put to them and it was a “yay or nay” time, a DUP source told BBC NI. If the board decide “yay”, BBC News NI understands that Sir Jeffrey has given a guarantee to his party executive – which is made up of more than 100 members – that they will be able to discuss any decision made by DUP officers.The development was first revealed by BBC NI’s The Nolan Show.Northern Ireland’s government collapsed after the DUP withdrew in protest against post-Brexit trade checks between the region and Great Britain.The UK agreed a new deal with the European Union called the Windsor Framework aimed at addressing issues with the previous deal, the Northern Ireland Protocol.But the DUP said this did not go far enough and the party has been in talks with the government seeking further changes.Image caption, Sir David Sterling says it is a “pivotal moment”The former head of the civil service has said it is a “pivotal moment” for Northern Ireland, adding that he hopes the DUP will return to power-sharing.In a rare intervention, Sir David Sterling, who held the role from 2017 until 2020, posted on X (formerly Twitter) on Thursday that if the institutions did not return, it would be “unionists who come to regret it the most”. He told BBC News NI he had been captured by recent pessimism but hoped that would change.”I don’t usually want to get involved in politics but as somebody from the unionist community, I just feel if you want the union to succeed this place needs to work and the assembly and executive will make this place work,” he said. “If they’re seen not to, that calls into question future of the union.”It’s been like a rollercoaster – I do hope if the DUP are meeting today they do decide to come back in.”There have been plenty of false dawns from the DUP but will this result in the sun rising on Stormont again?With the 18 January deadline (that was never really a deadline) out of the way it appears the DUP leader will face his own moment of truth.With the deal largely done a long time ago, the hardest negotiations Sir Jeffrey faces will be trying to win over everyone in his party to back it.We know there are factions within the party and some senior members on the board who do not like the deal and are not shy of saying so, loudly and publicly.Sir Jeffrey may also come under pressure to spell out how his deal meets the party’s long-standing seven tests, and explain what has changed since Christmas.Just this week we heard some MLAs lamenting the demise of devolution believing it was never coming back.Last night, former NI Secretary Julian Smith held onto some sliver of hope, saying on X: “Sometimes it’s darkest before the dawn”. But will this be another false dawn for power-sharing?Image source, PA MediaImage caption, Striking workers brought Northern Ireland to a halt on ThursdayThe 12 DUP members key to Stormont’s returnStormont next steps will ‘protect public services’What’s next after NI’s public sector strike?The DUP’s meeting comes after a day of mass industrial action from public sector workers across Northern Ireland.Northern Ireland ground to a halt as workers from 16 unions took to the picket line.On Wednesday, the assembly was recalled in a seventh attempt to restore devolved government since elections were last held in May 2022.But the DUP again vetoed the election of an assembly speaker, meaning no other business could take place.On Friday, Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar said he hoped the DUP meeting was a “positive sign” that devolution could return.”Our role as the Irish government will be to do everything we can to make sure that is sustainable, that it’s successful,” he said.”There are some very serious issues that need to be dealt with in Northern Ireland from public sector pay to the health service to other important issues.”Image source, Liam McBurneyImage caption, Chris Heaton-Harris is set to be involved in setting Stormont’s budget for a second yearIf an executive is not re-established, Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris is to be involved for a second consecutive year in setting Stormont’s budget.Last year, he set a budget for Stormont in the absence of local ministers, leaving unelected civil servants with the task of making substantial cuts.Mr Heaton-Harris also offered a £3.3bn financial package for Northern Ireland including funds to settle public sector pay claims – but it is contingent on the Stormont institutions being restored.In a statement released after the day of action, Mr Heaton-Harris said he would act to protect public services and he expected to set out his next steps in parliament next week.’Do things better’Reacting to news that DUP officers would meet on Friday, Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie said “unionism has to do things better” if Stormont returned.He said there could be a split in the DUP if they opt to go back into the executive and believed Sir Jeffrey would be in “a lonely place” as leader.”I wouldn’t want to be in his place right now,” he continued. “But I generally hope that they make the right call.”Alliance Party deputy leader Stephen Farry said he was “cautious” and it was “disappointing” the meeting was being held after Thursday’s strike.”We have been down this road many times with previous false dawns,” he said. “We shall see if anything does emerge.”Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister said it was a “defining moment for unionism” and warned if the post-Brexit rules remained the same then “a false bill of goods was sold to the unionist people”. Related TopicsNorthern Ireland AssemblyDUP (Democratic Unionist Party)