'Nothing new' from Brokenshire to help break Stormont deadlock, Sinn Fein claims
The UK Government has offered no new suggestions on how to break Stormont's political deadlock, Sinn Fein has said.
A party delegation met Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire at Stormont on Monday, days after the Conservative MP said he was considering a number of options to potentially inject fresh impetus into stalled talks to restore powersharing.
Sinn Fein negotiator Conor Murphy claimed Mr Brokenshire did not table any new ideas during their 30-minute meeting at Stormont House.
"We have heard nothing new from the Secretary of State during our meeting on how these talks will be conducted," he said afterwards.
After months of impasse and a series of missed deadlines to re-establish a devolved executive, Mr Brokenshire has faced calls to change the dynamic of the process.
The appointment of an independent overseas mediator or even shifting the talks venue out of Northern Ireland have been among the options suggested.
On a visit to the US last week, Mr Brokenshire said the Government was considering how to approach the next phase of the talks.
Asked whether an outside talks chair or a new venue were potential options, the Secretary of State said: "We are thinking carefully about how we can best support and create the right climate and context to get that positive outcome that I think people in Northern Ireland want to see, which is that executive getting back into position, having locally elected politicians doing the job they have been voted to do.
"We need to think carefully because we have made progress and it is important to underline that issues have been narrowed."
A bitter political rift between Stormont's two largest parties, the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein, has left the region without a first and deputy first minister since January and a functioning executive since March.
The parties remain at loggerheads over a range of issues.
Sticking points include the shape of legislation to protect Irish language speakers, the DUP's opposition to lifting the region's ban on same-sex marriage, and mechanisms to deal with the legacy of the Troubles.
Substantive talks are not expected to resume for a number of weeks after a summer pause in negotiations.
Mr Murphy said his party wanted a "short, focused time frame" for the process when it restarts.
"It is our clear view, and we have been saying this since January, and we have been as frustrated as I am sure the general public watching, that these issues could be resolved within a matter of days," he said.
"It is very clear what the issues are - it is very clear where the gaps are. It's around rights-based issues."
He added: "We have no interest in getting into a very protracted process which is just about process itself and nothing else."
Mr Brokenshire also met a number of business leaders on Monday. He encouraged them to press local politicians for a return to devolved government.
"I urged members to keep using their influence to encourage political parties to deliver a functioning and effective Executive so we can continue to build an economy that works for everyone," he said afterwards.
"Political stability is a fundamental basis for industrial success. Securing stable devolved institutions in Northern Ireland that will provide leadership, support innovation and boost skills will be integral to delivering on Northern Ireland's potential as a place to invest and do business.
"l will continue to engage with political and business leaders and community groups to ensure that Northern Ireland's interests are fully represented in EU exit negotiations. I genuinely believe the talent, resilience and global outlook of the business community in Northern Ireland presents positive opportunities for Northern Ireland's future."