Belfast Telegraph

Parties 'positive' over powersharing talks, says Charlie Flanagan

The mood is positive at the Northern Ireland powersharing talks, the Irish Government has said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said the parties had recognised the urgency of the situation.

Only two weeks remain to strike a deal as the threat of a second election or direct rule from London looms.

Mr Flanagan said: "There is a positive disposition on the part of all parties who are now currently in the Assembly.

"It is important that the urgency of the situation be fully acknowledged and I detect an acknowledgement in that regard.

"We have two weeks within which to form an Executive in accordance with the wishes of the people in the recent election."

He said there was a particular urgency given the imminent withdrawal of the UK from the EU and the consequences for Northern Ireland.

Meanwhile, new Assembly members gave an undertaking to support the rule of law and signed the membership roll in the first piece of business since the March 2 poll.

If no agreement is reached on forming a new Executive by March 27, Northern Ireland faces another snap election.

The recent poll saw an end to the unionist majority at Stormont.

Sinn Fein now holds one seat fewer in the Assembly than the Democratic Unionist Party.

Last week, in a letter to all MPs, Secretary of State James Brokenshire set out the consequences of the two largest parties failing to strike a deal, including no budget or programme for government and risks to public services.

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