Belfast Telegraph

Karen Bradley won't impose deadline for parties to resume Stormont talks

By Michelle Devane

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley has said that she will not impose a framework deal or a timetable to resume negotiations on Stormont's deadlocked parties.

Mrs Bradley's comments come after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar last week called for a re-intensification of the stalled talk process after Easter.

He suggested one way to break the impasse over the lack of the Stormont institutions would be for the UK and Irish governments to table their joint view of what an agreement to restore power-sharing might look like.

While the Secretary of State said she was considering all options, she insisted her role was to "facilitate not impose", and said she had to be careful not to do anything that might make the process go "backwards".

"I cannot tell two grown-up parties in the DUP and Sinn Fein, who are the two parties that need to make an agreement, to reach an accommodation and come to an accommodation to form a devolved government, I cannot impose on them what that accommodation looks like," she said. "They have to do that themselves."

Ms Bradley said she did not agree with the timeframe of after Easter that had been suggested by Mr Varadkar.

"No, I don't want to put a timeframe on it," she said.

"Putting artificial deadlines, putting barriers in the way, putting things that stop the parties back together in place is not what we're about."

She added: "That doesn't mean we're sitting on our hands and hoping it all goes right. Absolutely not."

Ms Bradley was in Washington DC and New York for 48 hours to mark St Patrick's Day.

She said one of the things she had learned from the conversations she had had in the United States was the real desire to help.

She said that not having the institutions in Northern Ireland functioning as the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement which set them up loomed made it a rather "hollow celebration".

Mrs Bradley said she is going to reflect on whether the reinstallation of a US envoy might help the impasse.

"It's something I'm considering," she said. "I want to reflect on some of the conversations I've had this week, thoughts on what a representative could do, an economic role maybe, and come to a determination."

But she added: "I don't think we should assume that something worked in the past it's going to work now.

"We've got to look at the situation we face today."

The Secretary of State is expected to visit Belfast this coming week.

Belfast Telegraph

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