A priest’s plea at the funeral of murdered journalist Lyra McKee for politicians in Northern Ireland to work together must not be left on the shelf, the Dail has been told.
Fianna Fail deputy leader Dara Calleary pressed the Irish Government to state whether it still believed devolution could be restored by the start of July, or whether the talks process in Belfast was going to be allowed to drift once again.
After an impassioned address, Father Martin McGill received a standing ovation at the funeral of Ms McKee in April after asking why it had taken the 29-year-old’s murder at the hands of dissident republicans to bring the region’s rowing politicians together.
During leaders’ questions in the Dail, Mr Calleary said: “Fault lines have to be challenged and fault lines have to be dismantled.
“And what we need is the urgency that the Tanaiste (Simon Coveney) himself injected into this process at the beginning of it saying we will have the Assembly up and running at the beginning of July.
“Is the Government still working to that target or are the words spoken at Lyra McKee’s funeral, are Father McGill’s words going to be put on the shelf again and is that impassioned plea going to be heard or is it going to be delayed?”
Communications Minister Richard Bruton was fielding questions on behalf of the Government on Thursday.
He insisted there was still a sense of urgency around the talks, but stressed that the local parties must be given space to reach an accommodation.
“I think there is a shared sense of urgency but while sharing that sense of urgency I think we have to give the time and space for the individual parties to work through this,” he said.
Clearly it is our hope that those talks will bear fruitRichard Bruton
Mr Bruton highlighted that Brexit was complicating efforts to reach consensus.
“The reality is these are difficult issues that need to be resolved, we understand that there is a huge urgency and I think the Government have recognised that and, to be fair, I think in the aftermath of that appalling killing of Lyra McKee there has been political initiative by both the British government and the Irish government and the parties have initiated talks.
“Clearly it is our hope that those talks will bear fruit.
“I think everyone who has been assessing the prospect of Brexit recognises this has unfortunately exposed some of the old fault lines that politicians find so difficult to deal with and I think we have to be very conscious that we don’t want to aggravate that while at the same time the reason we are holding out so strongly in relation to the negotiations on Brexit is that we have a universal commitment in this state to protect the Good Friday Agreement and everything that has been enshrined in it.”
He said he would not speculate on a timeline for reaching a deal, but added: “I believe these opportunities only come rarely to resolve these issues and never has it been at a more crucial time for Northern Ireland when you have the prospect of a Brexit occurring, even the potential of a hard Brexit.”