Belfast Telegraph

Coveney sounds a positive note after Bradley meeting

By Sam Lister and David Young

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney and Secretary of State Karen Bradley will meet again next week in the hope of making progress on the power-sharing deadlock.

Mr Coveney, who flew from a visit to the Middle East into London to meet the newly appointed Mrs Bradley, said that the talks had been "very good" and he expected they were "going to work very well together".

Mr Coveney said there remained "significant challenges" but both governments wanted to find a way to resolve the stand-off.

He said: "Everybody knows that there are time constraints in terms of the work that we need to do, but also I think everybody agrees that we want devolved government again in Northern Ireland."

The meeting came after a week when political relations in Northern Ireland were further strained, this time by controversies around the 1976 Kingsmill massacre in south Armagh.

Mr Coveney attacked the "really, really stupid and insensitive" actions of Sinn Fein MP Barry McElduff, who posted a social media video of himself with a Kingsmill branded loaf on his head on the anniversary of an atrocity that saw the IRA shoot dead 10 Protestant workmen.

Mr McElduff, who apologised and insisted the video was not a reference to the massacre, was suspended by Sinn Fein for three months.

Meanwhile, last night the head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service David Sterling urged the return of local ministers to government departments to take decisions as soon as possible.

In an interview with the BBC, Mr Sterling warned that civil servants were finding it increasingly difficult to run public services without being able to plan ahead.

Since the power-sharing Assembly at Stormont collapsed one year ago, civil servants have had to make the day-to-day calls on running public services in the absence of ministers.

Mr Sterling said that with no budget in place for the start of the new financial year in April, it was very difficult for senior civil servants to plan ahead.

"Really, we cannot go much beyond the beginning of February without clarity about how much departments and various public bodies are going to have to spend next year," Mr Sterling said.

His warning came a day after PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton spoke out in the Belfast Telegraph over his frustration at the absence of progress on dealing with the legacy of the past.

He revealed it could cost the PSNI £25m in 2017/18.

Belfast Telegraph

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