Belfast Telegraph

DUP opposed to putting negotiations on hold for summer break: Foster

DUP leader Arlene Foster
DUP leader Arlene Foster
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

The DUP has voiced its opposition to pausing power-sharing talks for the summer holidays as discussions to restore devolution continue at Stormont today.

A rumoured announcement by the British and Irish governments that the negotiations would be put on hold for the next two months did not materialise yesterday.

Secretary of State Karen Bradley and Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney hosted a stock-take with party leaders at Stormont. Another round-table meeting is scheduled for today.

Stormont sources said they did not believe any announcement to suspend the talks for July and August was imminent.

They said that while progress was slow, the negotiations could continue over the summer holiday period if a deal was not reached this month. A government spokesman last night said: "The Secretary of State hosted a stock-take with the leaders of the Northern Ireland political parties and the Tanaiste.

"Progress continues to be made, although a number of areas of disagreement still remain.

"The UK government is determined to use this genuine but narrow window of opportunity to do everything it can to restore the institutions. That work continues tomorrow."

Arlene Foster said there had been "constructive engagement" between the parties but "significant gaps remained".

The DUP leader last night told the Belfast Telegraph: "While there has been some speculation about pausing the process, we would not be in favour of that.

"We need to crack the issues and get decision-making restored to Northern Ireland. People are frustrated and suffering because of the lack of an Executive. Last night, I attended a public meeting about stroke services. It is utterly unacceptable that there is no minister in place to set the strategic direction for decisions impacting on our schools, roads and hospitals.

"I still advocate the immediate restoration of the Assembly, with the talks process running in parallel.

"Sinn Fein reject that route, but it is time for them to step up and put solutions on the table which are fair and balanced.

"We want to create a shared future where people with British and Irish identities feel at home in Northern Ireland.

"There is enough space for everyone. There must be respect for all identities."

The new talks process was announced after the murder of journalist Lyra McKee two months ago. Devolution has been suspended since January 2017.

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