Theresa May returned to London after talks failed to end the 13-month stalemate between the parties which has seen Northern Ireland run by civil servants.
SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood said both the UK and Irish governments had been “left embarrassed” after, despite high hopes, leaving Belfast without a deal to restore devolution.
The UK prime minister and Irish premier Leo Varadkar attended talks with the main political parties amid widespread anticipation that the DUP and Sinn Féin were close breaking the deadlock, but both leaders left empty handed.
Mrs May called for “one final push” to get a new power-sharing deal, saying: “While differences remain, I think there is the basis of an agreement here”.
Her positive tone was echoed by the DUP’s Arlene Foster and Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald, while Varadkar said he was “very hopeful” of a deal being struck sooner rather than later.
In January last year the then-deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness, pulled Sinn Féin out of the coalition after a series of disagreements, with the final straw being the DUP’s handling of a scandal over a green energy scheme. Previous rounds of talks between the DUP and Sinn Féin have, so far, failed to break the political deadlock.
The DUP and Sinn Féin have said that a deal is still possible. Arlene Foster said any agreement had to be supported by everybody and sustainable. And Sinn Féin’s new President, Mary Lou McDonald, said her party is close to a deal that can be put to their grassroots.