Belfast Telegraph

Irish government supports role of Brokenshire in negotiations

By Noel McAdam

The Irish government has distanced itself from nationalist demands that the Secretary of State should step aside from the talks to restore Stormont due to the Conservative-DUP deal.

Irish Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan indicated he had no problem with James Brokenshire remaining as co-chair of the negotiations.

Mr Flanagan said he expected Mr Brokenshire to "adopt a stance of rigorous impartiality" and urged the Stormont parties to "bank the progress" which had been made during negotiations before the General Election.

But SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said Mr Brokenshire's position is untenable and the Irish government should "reassert" itself as a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement.

"These talks need an independent chairman. Otherwise they are going nowhere," he warned.

"If James Brokenshire thinks for one second he can be independent talks chair, he's absolutely wrong."

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said Mr Brokenshire has not even been chairing previous sessions.

Instead, the head of the civil service, Dr Malcolm McKibben - who had been due to retire by now - has been officiating in meetings between the parties.

But Mr Adams insisted Mr Brokenshire represents a "partisan" British government and said: "We made clear at the beginning of these talks that James Brokenshire is not an acceptable chair."

Mr Adams also appeared to soften demands that Arlene Foster would have to stand aside as First Minister until after the Renewable Heat Incentive inquiry reports.

The Louth TD said the issue was "all part of the talks" to restore devolution.

A meeting between the two parties later was described as "non-confrontational".

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