Belfast Telegraph

Deal to save devolution is possible: Brokenshire

By Noel McAdam

A deal to save devolution and restore Stormont is "do-able", an optimistic Secretary of State James Brokenshire has insisted.

In an upbeat report to MPs as the inter-party talks reached the half-way stage, he said devolved government was "the only thing I am working towards".

But he refused Ulster Unionist Tom Elliott's request to set out the major stumbling blocks in the negotiations, which reach day 10 tomorrow.

He also declined to respond directly to DUP MP Sammy Wilson's demand that he step in to resolve the failure to set a Budget for the next financial year, starting next month.

Speaking at Northern Ireland question time in the House of Commons, Mr Brokenshire said: "Devolved government is the only thing I am working towards, recognising that is what the people voted for and want to see."

SNP MP Deidre Brock asked if there were contingency plans in case there is no deal by the deadline of March 27, after which Mr Brokenshire can decide to call another election "in a reasonable period".

He replied: "The real intent is on securing an agreement in the three-week period. I believe that is do-able, achievable. I think speculating on alternative approaches is not helpful.

"These are still significant challenges, but I believe that with continued positive intent we can secure a resolution that sees devolved government resumed."

However, on legacy issues, Mr Brokenshire said while some information regarding the Troubles could never enter the public domain, the current legacy system "is not working for anyone".

He added: "It's not working for service personnel and it's not working for victims too.

"It is important we move forward on the Stormont House bodies and creating that balanced, proportionate and fair system I think everyone recognises is needed."

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