Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

In her own words: Theresa Villiers on the issues topping the political agenda

Secretary of State Theresa Villiers
Secretary of State Theresa Villiers

The Secretary of State on the issues topping the political agenda.

Proposals for the Kincora scandal to be examined as part of Home Office child abuse inquiry

"My view is that we have to be quite careful in terms of adding increased responsibilities to the Home Office's inquiry. There is an institutional abuse inquiry already in Northern Ireland, with powers of compulsion, so I think we have to take that into account."

Her top priorities

"The two big obstacles to progress at the moment are the implementation of welfare reform and trying to restart the cross-party talks on flags, parading and the past."

Parading past Ardoyne

"Everyone I have spoken to acknowledges that more needs to be done to bring the two sides of the dispute in north Belfast together to build some kind of mutual understanding which would get us closer to resolving the dispute. That is why I am going to continue to work intensively with the party leaders to see if there is a fresh process which can deal with north Belfast alone."

The Parades Commission

"It is the legally constituted authority which makes determinations on parades. That will continue to be the case in north Belfast and everywhere else, unless and until there is cross-party agreement on reform of the way parading decisions are made. We mustn't undermine the Parades Commission or try to usurp its authority. I am at one with the nationalist parties when it comes to this point."

The resumption of all-party talks

"I want to see the all-party talks on flags, parading and the past restart as soon as possible. I want to find ways to bring the unionists back to the table on these issues and my approach to north Belfast will be part of that. My priority is to get the unionists back to the table."

Senator Gary Hart in Northern Ireland

"I welcome the interest and support of Washington. I met with Senator Hart in London on Tuesday morning and briefed him on Northern Ireland issues. His visit is an example of the Americans simply testing to see if there is more they can do to support Northern Ireland. Washington has played a very constructive role here and helped to deliver the peace process."

Relations with the Irish government

"The two governments strongly wish to see the parties resolve a way forward on flags, parading and the past. I keep in very regular contact with Dublin and relations are very strong. However, the two governments joining all-party talks isn't a realistic option. I don't think it would be the right way forward, not least because of the disagreement it would cause within the Northern Ireland parties."

Economic prospects

"A predicted growth rate of 2.8% puts Northern Ireland ahead of many economies across the world. The recovery has started in earnest here. The UK Government deserves credit and it reflects very well on the Northern Ireland Executive."

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