Northern Ireland's Foster sees no return to devolution for months

Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Arlene Foster speaks at a news conference after a meeting with European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels, Belgium, March 6, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

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LONDON (Reuters) - The leader of Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Arlene Foster, said on Thursday she saw little chance of a return to devolved government in the British province in the coming weeks or months.

"For this past 13 months we have been unable to form a devolved government. I really regret that. Given everything that happened over the past couple of weeks, I see little prospect of it being returned in the coming weeks or months," she said in a speech to the British Chambers of Commerce.

Foster, whose party supports Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative government, added that she was disappointed that a return to violence in Northern Ireland had been raised in Brexit talks by those with little knowledge of the region.

"I do object in the strongest terms to people who have limited experience of the 'Troubles' in Northern Ireland throwing threats of violence around as some kind of bargaining chip in the negotiating process," she said. "To do so is an insult to the people of Northern Ireland."

The province has been without a devolved executive for over a year since Irish nationalists Sinn Fein withdrew from the compulsory power-sharing government with the DUP, their arch-rivals. The executive is central to a 1998 peace deal that ended three decades of violence.

(Reporting by David Milliken and Andrew MacAskill; editing by Stephen Addison)

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