Belfast Telegraph

Karen Bradley recommends Northern Ireland talks 'intensify' - right attitude and will but challenges remain, says Secretary of State

Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

The Northern Ireland Secretary of State is to recommend talks aimed at restoring the Stormont institutions move into a "very intensive period".

Mrs Bradley said there was the right attitude among the parties to find a solution, however admitted there were challenges to overcome.

UUP leader Robin Swann and Alliance leader Naomi Long said the atmosphere around the table was better than had been expected.

Karen Bradley was speaking after the latest round of party talks working to re-establish the institutions which have not met in almost two-and-a-half-years.

Talks resumed after the recent local government elections with Karen Bradley saying there was a short window of opportunity for the parties to work.

She said the Taoiseach and Prime Minister will be reviewing progress - as had been intended - at the end of the month.

"I'll be recommending that we now move into a very intensive period of talks at leadership level to make sure we can address the issues that remain," she told the press.

"I am positive there is the right attitude and the right will there but I think it would be wrong for me to do anything other than be clear there were significant challenges that remain."

Following her short statement Mrs Bradley again refused to take questions from the assembled Press.

Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney said there were "awkward issues" blocking restoration but believed they could be overcome.

He said there was a window in June to get a deal but "the stakes are high".

"Today was good," he said.

UUP leader Robin Swann was optimistic after Thursday's meetings.

 "We want to see devolution working," he said. "There were no red lines coming out around the table, it was about how we get to the next step."

Alliance leader Naomi Long said engagement had been in good faith and was hopeful a resolution could be found.

"I think we will have a much clearer idea when the parties come together at leadership level," she said.

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