Belfast Telegraph

Go to Belfast and try to break the deadlock yourself, Lords tell PM

By Trevor Mason

The Prime Minister has come under fresh cross-party pressure in the Lords to intervene personally and try to break the deadlock in restoring a power-sharing Executive at Stormont.

Former Northern Ireland Secretary Lord Murphy of Torfaen said every previous successful agreement had been achieved by the direct involvement of the Prime Minister and Taoiseach.

The Labour peer said: "Isn't it about time the Prime Minister actually goes to Belfast and talks directly with the parties and the Irish Government?

"Until that happens, I fear we will make little progress," he warned at question time.

Government spokesman Viscount Younger of Leckie assured peers that Mrs May was taking "a very close interest" and had "close involvement" in the talks.

"Should she see fit, she will indeed travel to Northern Ireland," he said.

Tory Lord Cormack said the Prime Minister clearly had a close interest in the talks to achieve a power-sharing deal, but added: "There is no substitute for a visit."

He urged her to go to Northern Ireland and "talk on the spot" with the various political parties involved.

Lord Younger said the Prime Minister would go "when she thinks it is right to do so" and when it would "make a material difference".

Tory Lord Lexden asked whether, after "10 weeks of aborted talking", there was any prospect of a breakthrough and what contingency plans the No.10 had.

Lord Younger said "gaps" remained between the parties involved in the talks, but added: "We remain convinced they can be bridged."

He said: "The deadline has now passed and the Secretary of State is under a duty to set a date for a new election. He will continue to keep that duty under review."

Labour former minister Baroness Armstrong of Hill Top said if the Government was so busy with other issues such as Brexit, it might be time to appoint an independent person to do the "heavy-duty work" to keep the momentum going and resolve the deadlock.

Lord Younger said there was "heavy-duty work" going on to restore the power-sharing Executive with the Prime Minister keeping in continuous contact with the issues.

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