Belfast Telegraph

Brexit clarity could help restore Northern Ireland government before end of year: Varadkar

By Michael McHugh

Talks aimed at restoring power-sharing in Northern Ireland should be held in the autumn, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

The Stormont Executive collapsed 18 months ago and repeated rounds of negotiations have failed to restore it.

Mr Varadkar suggested the prospect of talks between the main parties in Belfast and the British and Irish Governments depended on clear answers around the Brexit debate.

He said: "We would intend, in the autumn some time, trying again to get the parties in Northern Ireland together."

The Taoiseach told a media briefing in Dublin: "I think the absence of any clarity around Brexit makes that very difficult but if we can have that in October, I think there is an opportunity, certainly before the end of the year, to get the Assembly and Executive up and running."

Stormont crashed in January 2017 amid a row about the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), the botched green energy scheme.

It later widened to take in issues such as the Irish language, LGBT rights and the legacy of the Troubles.

The last bid to resurrect the troubled institutions failed in February when the DUP pulled the plug.

Sinn Fein insisted a draft deal had been signed off with the DUP at that point, and accused the party of getting cold feet in the face of an internal revolt from grassroots members angry about potential concessions in the dispute over the Irish language.

The DUP denied the claim, insisting that it had exchanged numerous papers with Sinn Fein during the negotiation process but none amounted to a draft agreement.

Last week Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley said the Government would "take the steps it needs to take" to ensure good governance in Northern Ireland.

Yesterday a Government spokesperson said: "The Secretary of State and UK Government's top priority remains the restoration of devolved government in Northern Ireland.

"She (Karen Bradley) will continue to work with all the Northern Ireland parties - and with the Irish Government within the three-stranded approach - to remove the barriers to restoring the Executive and a fully-functioning Assembly."

Belfast Telegraph

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