Belfast Telegraph

Deadline to restore devolution will not be renewed, insists Brokenshire

By David Young, PA

The Secretary of State has warned the latest deadline to restore devolution is "final and immovable".

James Brokenshire also made clear the reintroduction of direct rule from Westminster is on the cards if an agreement does not materialise by June 29.

"Northern Ireland's political leaders now have this chance to take control and restore effective power-sharing government under the current assembly mandate," he said after his re-appointment.

"If they do not, the power to make decisions passes to others. Their choice in the next three weeks will shape Northern Ireland's future."

Mr Brokenshire also insisted the Government remained committed to the principles of the Good Friday Agreement and to governing in the interests of all the people of the region.

His comments came after a variety of politicians expressed concern that a deal between the DUP and Conservatives would undermine the Government's obligation, under the 1998 Agreement, to be impartial in its dealings with Northern Ireland.

Three deadlines to restore power sharing have fallen by the wayside amid an ongoing dispute between the DUP and Sinn Fein.

Talks will resume in Belfast today, having taken a break for the General Election campaign, with a June 29 deadline.

Mr Brokenshire said there would not be another extension.

He said the Agreement still "provides the basis for Northern Ireland's continued political progress".

"My immediate priority is reaching agreement on restoring an inclusive power-sharing Executive - which is what the people of Northern Ireland voted for in the March Assembly elections.

"The statutory deadline to restore a functioning Executive to Northern Ireland is 29 June. Time is short but there was real progress in the last round of political discussion. Agreement between the parties can be reached if there is goodwill on all sides.

"Talks must resume again as soon as possible and I will meet the party leaders and Irish Foreign Minister Flanagan in Belfast tomorrow. All those involved must engage in the full knowledge that the deadline of 29 June is final and immovable.

"The UK government will do everything in its power, working alongside the Irish government in relation to those areas where they have responsibility, to contribute to an d support the process, steadfastly upholding the principles of the Belfast Agreement and its successors."

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