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Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade in Ireland Simon Coveney speaks on stage during the Fine Gael national party conference in Ballyconnell, Ireland November 10, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne


DUBLIN (Reuters) - The Irish government is hopeful Northern Ireland's political parties will make a fresh attempt at restoring their devolved power-sharing government in the next few weeks, Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said on Thursday.

The latest efforts to break a near year-long stalemate collapsed at the start of this month, prompting Britain to begin setting a budget for the province, a major step towards imposing direct rule from London for the first time in a decade.

    Many in Northern Ireland fear direct rule would further destabilise a political balance between pro-British unionists and Irish nationalists that has already been upset by Britain's vote to leave the European Union.

"I hope in the next few weeks we will be able to get back around the table. I think it is fair to say the parties are trying to move this forward and I hope the governments will be able to facilitate an agreement," Coveney told parliament.

Coveney helped facilitate the talks as Ireland is a co-guarantor of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement which ended 30 years of sectarian violence that killed 3,600 people. He said he still believes a deal is achievable.

Irish Nationalists Sinn Fein and the pro-British Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) shared power for a decade until Sinn Fein pulled out of government in January, complaining it was not being treated as an equal partner.

DUP leader Arlene Foster has said she hopes talks can resume soon while Sinn Fein has called for greater intervention from the governments in Dublin and London.

Analysts say a fresh round of talks is unlikely to be contemplated before the DUP's annual conference on Nov. 25.

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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