Belfast Telegraph

Karen Bradley's summer drinks reception cancelled after snub by political parties

Karen Bradley
Karen Bradley

Secretary of State Karen Bradley has decided to cancel a summer drinks reception at Stormont after the main political parties said they would not attend.

The event was intended to allow politicians the opportunity to socialise alongside the ongoing Stormont talks.

It was due to be held at Stormont House on Tuesday and hosted by Mrs Bradley.

The event has now been called off as power-sharing talks between Northern Ireland's five main parties have stalled.

A UK Government spokesperson said that Mrs Bradley thought the event would be a useful opportunity to bring MLAs together "for an informal event alongside the ongoing talks process".

"This was part of the drive to make the process more inclusive, beyond those who sit around the talks table, and to help build relationships ahead of the restoration of the Assembly," the spokesperson said.

"As she has said, her top priority is to bring the talks to a successful conclusion, and tomorrow's event was intended to be a further step on that road.

"The Secretary of State respects that the parties have concluded they are not ready for this yet. The event will therefore not take place."

The UUP, Alliance Party, SDLP and Sinn Fein had all confirmed they would not be attending the event, while the DUP described it as "unhelpful".

When asked whether her party would be attending the drinks reception on BBC NI's Sunday Politics, Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O'Neill said: "Absolutely not."

Locked gates at Stormont (Niall Carson/PA)
Locked gates at Stormont (Niall Carson/PA)

An SDLP spokesperson said: “We’re focused on the talks. The public wants us working to secure a return to government rather than attending drinks receptions.”

The power-sharing talks appear to have stalled over the weekend, with DUP leader Arlene Foster taking to Twitter saying that Sinn Fein's demands "need to change so we can get agreement which respects all parts of our divided society".

Last month victims of historical abuse in Northern Ireland gathered to protest against the Secretary of State's handling of a compensation scheme for survivors. 

Victims said that Ms Bradley was using victims as "emotional blackmail" in a bid to break the deadlock in the cross-party talks aimed at restoring the assembly.

Ms Bradley has denied the accusation, saying she will do "everything in her power" to ensure victims are compensated as soon as possible.

The Northern Ireland Secretary has also faced criticism after admitting she did not understand traditional voting patterns in Northern Ireland before she took the job.

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