Parties need 'time and space' to reach Stormont agreement says Bradley
Secretary of State Karen Bradley has said that Northern Ireland's political parties need "time and space" to agree a power-sharing deal.
Mrs Bradley was speaking ahead of a round-table discussion with the parties and Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney on Monday.
Politicians had said that any deal would have to be reached before the summer period, with parading season contributing to rising tensions in Northern Ireland.
However, Mrs Bradley said that she did not believe an "artificial deadline" should be placed on the talks process.
She told the BBC that "difficult issues" remain outstanding in the talks process.
"While we've got a chance of delivering this, we need to give it that time and space to do it. I don't think putting artificial deadlines on these things helps," Mrs Bradley said.
"The fact is the politicians are there, there's a will around the table and there's a will in the room."
The Secretary of State declined to state whether the previous eight weeks had moved the parties any closer to compromise on the outstanding sticking points.
“We are into week nine now,” she said.
“We have made good progress, we have worked on an all-party basis, we have had working groups that have made real progress in finding areas of consensus but we always knew that difficult areas of difference would be difficult for the parties and we are working to try to find a way to bridge the gap.”
“We have always been clear – the risks to the parties in Northern Ireland don’t get easier the further that we go.
“We’ve had over eight weeks of talks, they have been good, they have been constructive, productive.
“I now want to see us find a way to bridge the gaps.”
The Northern Ireland Secretary said she was more focused on facilitating a Stormont return than who would be replacing Theresa May as Prime Minister.
"The important thing for me is that there are no distractions to restore the executive," Mrs Bradley said.
"My view is that we need to focus on that today."
The Assembly collapsed when the late deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness resigned over the RHI Scandal in January 2017.
The latest round of talks started after the murder of journalist Lyra McKee by dissident republicans in Londonderry in May.
Talks between Sinn Fein and the DUP collapsed in February 2018 after a disagreement over an Irish Language Act.
The parties also remain at loggerheads on same-sex marriage.
Belfast Telegraph Digital