Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland Secretary of State Karen Bradley: 'Power-sharing deal is still possible'

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley, has said she remains optimistic a deal to restore power-sharing to Stormont can be achieved, despite the latest round of talks collapsing.

Sinn Fein and the DUP have blamed each other for the failure of the Stormont talks, with the UK Government now under pressure to introduce direct rule.

Ms Bradley, speaking at the Victoria Square shopping centre in Belfast on Friday afternoon, said: "It has been a difficult week, I am not going to make any pretence at that.

"We worked extraordinarily hard to enable an Executive to be formed. I still believe that can be done, with the will of the politicians to deliver on what the people of Northern Ireland want and need, which is their elected politicians doing the right thing and delivering devolved government for the people of Northern Ireland."

She added: "I will do all I can to try and deliver devolved government back at Stormont because I believe that is the best thing for the people of Northern Ireland."

The secretary of state dodged questions on whether she believed the DUP and Sinn Fein had in fact come to a draft agreement before the talks collapse.

She said: "From the feedback from both parties, I believe a deal could be done."

Asked whether imposing direct rule on Northern Ireland from Westminster was the only option, Ms Bradley said: "The best and right thing for the people of Northern Ireland is that we get devolved government."

The secretary of state added she will be giving a statement on Northern Ireland to the House of Commons next Tuesday.

Prime Minister Theresa May and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar visited Belfast last Monday, February 12, amid hopes a power-sharing deal was about to be announced.

However, DUP leader Arlene Foster announced on Wednesday, February 14, that no deal was possible and said the prime minister's visit was a distraction.

Ms Bradley, when asked if the Prime Minister's visit proved a distraction to the talks, said:  "The Prime Minister is the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. It is absolutely right that she should come and visit Northern Ireland.

"Her visit to Bombardier, a fantastic local success story, was something that she really wanted to do and I am very pleased she had the chance to do it."

On Thursday, Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald said a draft package was in place last weekend.

She claimed the agreement included an Irish language act, an Ulster Scots act, and a respecting language and diversity act.

However, the DUP have strongly denied Sinn Fein's claims.

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