Belfast Telegraph

Mixed reaction to Northern Ireland deadlock as May slammed over approach

By Suzanne Breen

Labour Shadow Secretary of State Owen Smith has hit out at Prime Minster Theresa May's hands-off approach to negotiations to restore devolution.

Mr Smith said it was "deeply disappointing though not unexpected" that the negotiations had ended without agreement as Mr Brokenshire prepared to set a budget. But he suggested that the Government could have taken a more active role in the talks.

"In particular, questions must be asked about the complete disengagement of the Prime Minister," he said.

"While the hands-on involvement of Prime Ministers has not always led to progress in previous peace talks, other leaders have at least tried to use their personal influence to persuade or pressurise the parties into finding common ground."

TUV leader Jim Allister said it was "good news" that efforts to resurrect the Executive failed. "I trust the latest chapter of failure will even bring the slowest of learners to this realisation. If we want Stormont rule it can only be on a different model than mandatory coalition," he said.

"It is time for the DUP to shift focus away from chasing the moonbeam of mandatory coalition to either integrating us more closely into the UK or pursuing devolution that is workable, be it voluntary coalition, a corporate Assembly, or legislative devolution."

Green Party leader Steven Agnew said that the Secretary of State and the DUP and Sinn Fein were dragging Northern Ireland on a "slow journey" to direct rule.

"What we now need from the Secretary of State is a concerted effort to introduce transparency, creativity and inclusivity into negotiations, to end the black-out on what the sticking points are and to listen to alternative approaches.

"Restricting the debate to two sets of vested interests and shutting the door on all other elected representatives is placing a stranglehold on an ailing democratic process," he said. Mr Agnew also suggested that Mr Brokenshire should consider cutting MLAs' pay by a third.

A US State Department statement said it believed that the issues dividing the DUP and Sinn Fein could be "resolved in a spirit of shared political responsibility and pragmatism". It said: "Northern Ireland's future will be best served by the establishment and running of an effective, accountable, and responsive government.

"This is especially true in light of the challenges that Brexit presents for the region.

"We urge all parties to continue dialogue in order to reach a viable power-sharing deal and re-establish the Northern Ireland Executive as soon as possible."

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