Belfast Telegraph

Stormont 'back in weeks', hopes Coveney

By Staff Reporter

Stormont's crisis-hit government could be functioning fully within a matter of weeks, the Republic's foreign affairs minister has said.

Following meetings with the DUP and Sinn Fein in Belfast on Wednesday, Simon Coveney said a "relatively small" number of issues were left on which to reach agreement.

Mr Coveney and Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire have been involved in negotiations with the parties aimed at restoring a powersharing Executive.

The institutions collapsed in January amid a bitter row between the DUP and Sinn Fein about a botched green energy scheme.

Several rounds of talks have so far failed to reach an agreement.

Yesterday, however, Mr Coveney said the "mood between the two parties has improved a lot".

Speaking before an All-Island Civic Dialogue on Brexit in Dublin, Mr Coveney added: "I think they are genuinely trying to make progress on some difficult issues for both parties.

"Yesterday was a good day in terms of those discussions, but we need to give those parties just a little bit more time.

"We are trying to work through what are a relatively small number of issues left now, in order for the parties to work together with the other parties in Northern Ireland as well, to put hopefully a fully inclusive Executive in place within the next number of weeks.

"But we are not quite there yet. I suspect there is at least another week in this yet."

Mr Coveney warned that the current instability in the region "is not a sustainable situation for much longer".

"There hasn't been any political decision-making in Northern Ireland since the start of the year, so practical things like healthcare, education, response to flooding, for example, needs political input, and that isn't there," he said.

"Nobody wants decisions being made for day-to-day life in London or somewhere else.

"It is really important in the context of big issues like Brexit, the Bombardier case, that Northern Ireland has its own voice and own government."

On Monday, Mr Brokenshire had also welcomed what he characterised as "positive statements" from the rowing political parties.

Belfast Telegraph

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