Belfast Telegraph

Leo Varadkar and Theresa May issue joint statement on Northern Ireland powersharing talks

Leo Varadkar and Theresa May (PA)
Leo Varadkar and Theresa May (PA)

There is a "genuine but narrow window of opportunity" to reach a powersharing agreement in Northern Ireland, a joint statement from the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach has said.

The British and Irish governments launched a new round of talks in April in a bid to break two years of deadlock at Stormont.

Powersharing at the executive at Stormont collapsed in January 2017 amid acrimony between Sinn Fein and the DUP, leaving a political vacuum in Northern Ireland for more than two years.

Theresa May and Leo Varadkar released a statement on Sunday evening after being updated on the progress of the talks by Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Karen Bradley and the Tánaiste Simon Coveney.

It read: "We welcome the constructive engagement shown by all parties to date. It is clear to us that the Northern Ireland political parties wish to see the institutions of the Belfast / Good Friday Agreement restored, but operating on a more credible and sustainable basis.

"While broad consensus has been reached on some issues, other areas remain to be resolved.

"The Secretary of State and Tánaiste believe that there is a genuine but narrow window of opportunity to reach agreement in the immediate period ahead and that it is essential to continue and intensify talks to this end.

"As Prime Minister and Taoiseach, we will continue to monitor this progress closely. 

"We believe it is imperative that the parties now move without delay to engaging substantively on the shape of a final agreement."

The DUP and Sinn Fein have so far been unable to come to agreement on a series of issues, including same-sex marriage, language rights and legacy issues.

Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald said: “We are now at the end of this phase of the talks. All parties and both governments have shared their positions and all agree on the need to re-establish the power sharing institutions of the Good Friday Agreement.

“The next phase of talks must move from the aspiration to re-establish the institutions to actually reaching an agreement that delivers for all.

“I believe that progress is possible and necessary. It will be found in implementing our existing agreements, respecting the equality of all and recognising the rights of one section of the community does not diminish the rights of others."

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