Belfast Telegraph

Enda Kenny optimistic about Stormont talks outcome

Irish premier Enda Kenny is optimistic about the outcome of crunch talks to save the power-sharing executive in Northern Ireland.

But the Taoiseach warned unionist and nationalist parties locked in ongoing negotiations in Belfast had to stop lurching from crisis to crisis.

Mr Kenny was speaking in Dublin at an event marking the 30th anniversary of the Anglo Irish Agreement, reached by former leaders Margaret Thatcher and Garret FitzGerald in 1985.

"As we meet tonight, negotiations on the most recent agreement, the Stormont House Agreement, are continuing," he said.

"We have had some difficult months recently in the North. I remain optimistic.

"But we need to move on from crisis negotiation after crisis negotiation."

Mr Kenny said party leaders in Belfast needed to take on the current challenges to a better future together with all of the skill, commitment and resilience of those who delivered the Anglo Irish Agreement.

Earlier, a cross-border meeting of political leaders from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland was cancelled to enable further talks to save Stormont.

The scheduled North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) discussions involving ministers from both administrations had been due to take place in Armagh on Friday.

Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Mr Kenny and deputy prime minister (Tanaiste) Joan Burton had all been set to attend the meeting, but the Stormont leaders are now staying in Belfast.

At the weekend, Taoiseach Mr Kenny raised hopes of an imminent resolution to the crisis engulfing the Northern Ireland administration when he predicted a settlement "within days". However, consensus has yet to emerge.

Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness were locked in exchanges with the UK and Irish governments throughout Thursday afternoon.

Officials from all sides were due to continue talks into the evening.

Among the issues standing in the way of an agreement is the level of additional funding the governments are willing to commit to the region.

Nationalist and republican concerns around the British government's position on potentially withholding some information, on national security grounds, from new Troubles truth recovery mechanisms have also to be resolved.

Details of new cross-border crime fighting initiatives to tackle the ongoing scourge of paramilitarism have not been fully hammered out either.

Ireland's minister for foreign affairs Charlie Flanagan, who has been involved throughout the nine week talks process, said he would be back round the negotiating table at Stormont House on Friday.

"Encouraging and steady progress continues to be made in the political talks at Stormont," he said.

Mr Flanagan added: "I encourage all the parties to continue their positive engagement in this important process and remain hopeful that a positive outcome can be achieved."

Powersharing in Northern Ireland has stumbled from one crisis to another in recent times, the latest sparked by a murder linked to the supposedly defunct Provisional IRA.

The fallout from the shooting of former IRA man Kevin McGuigan and a range of other disputes creating instability, in particular an acute budget crisis, are on the agenda in the talks.

A resolution to the long-standing impasse over the Executive's failure to implement the UK Government's welfare reforms in Northern Ireland will be crucial to any breakthrough.

A spokesman from the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister said the NSMC meeting had been "postponed to allow the political talks which are at an advanced stage to reach a conclusion".


From Belfast Telegraph