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UK bids to break Northern Ireland deadlock by cutting deputies' pay

Parliament buildings at Stormont is seen at night in Belfast, Northern Ireland February 15, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

BELFAST/LONDON (Reuters) - The British government is to cut the pay of members of Northern Ireland’s parliament in its latest attempt to break a political deadlock that has left the region with no government for almost 20 months, the minister for Northern Ireland said on Thursday.

The executive - a central plank of a 1998 peace deal that ended three decades of sectarian violence - has been frozen since Irish nationalists Sinn Fein pulled out in January 2017, saying they were not being treated as equal partners by the pro-British Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

Repeated attempts to break the deadlock have failed, but Northern Ireland minister Karen Bradley on Thursday told the British parliament that she would make a fresh push to restart talks in the coming weeks.

“As this impasse continues, public services are suffering. Businesses are suffering. The people of Northern Ireland are suffering,” Bradley told parliament. “Local decision-making is urgently needed to address this.”

Bradley said Britain would cut the pay of Northern Ireland deputies by 7,000 pounds ($9,050) from November and by a further 6,000 pounds from February if no agreement is reached.

At the same time legislation will be introduced to provisions to give “greater clarity and certainty” to the civil service to take decisions in Northern Ireland to ensure the delivery of public services, she said.

The move is the latest step towards re-imposing direct rule of the region, including imposing a budget directly from London. The British government has been reluctant to take direct control for fear of angering Irish nationalists and the Irish government.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in July said he planned to try to get the parties togeter for talks in the autumn.

Reporting by Ian Graham; editing by Stephen Addison and Alison Williams