Belfast Telegraph

Failure of Stormont talks would be betrayal of Lyra McKee, says minister

Lyra McKee was shot and killed when guns were fired and petrol bombs were thrown in Londonderry (Family handout/PA)
Lyra McKee was shot and killed when guns were fired and petrol bombs were thrown in Londonderry (Family handout/PA)

By Nick Lester, Press Association Political Staff

Failing to restore devolved government at Stormont would be "a betrayal" of the murdered journalist Lyra McKee, a Northern Ireland minister has said.

While progress was being made towards resolving the long-standing deadlock, Lord Duncan of Springbank said there remained "significant gaps" between the parties.

A fresh bid to restore powersharing was launched earlier this year following the shooting dead of Ms McKee by dissident republicans in Londonderry.

Speaking in the House of Lords, Labour former Northern Ireland secretary Lord Hain said: "Does the minister agree that it would be a shameful betrayal of the fine memory of Lyra McKee if the parties, both the DUP and Sinn Fein, do not bear in mind what she stood for and reach an agreement?"

He also urged the Prime Minister to convene a summit "because that is sometimes the only way to crack these problems".

Lord Duncan said: "It would I believe be a betrayal of all that she (Ms McKee) stood for if we do not finally secure a restored executive."

He also said Theresa May had been taking an active interest and had been in direct contact with her Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar "to discuss these matters to give as best we can a favourable momentum to the talks".

Lord Duncan told peers that the parties had approached the talks "with a spirit of engagement and with a willingness to find solutions".

But he told peers: "There remain however significant gaps between the parties that still need to be bridged if we are to secure an agreement."

The Minister added: "This is a positive time in the talks. Progress I believe is being made.

"It would be premature of me to say we are at the final moment but right now the conversations are being conducted in the most positive language that we have had in some time."

Democratic Unionist Party peer Lord Hay of Ballyore said any agreement reached in Northern Ireland "must be a balanced and fair agreement".

"It cannot be the situation for one side takes all," he said.

Agreeing, Lord Duncan said: "It must be balanced, it must be fair and importantly it must be sustainable."

Powersharing government at Stormont collapsed more than two years following the breakdown in relations between the DUP and Sinn Fein.

The parties remain split over the place of the Irish language in society, abortion and the recognition of same-sex marriage.

Numerous attempts to reach a resolution have ended without success.

Press Association

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