Belfast Telegraph

Stormont deal can be reached, Sinn Fein leader tells PM

A fresh round of talks started last week with what was described as a ‘constructive’ meeting of the parties.

Locked gates at Stormont (Niall Carson/PA)
Locked gates at Stormont (Niall Carson/PA)

A deal to resurrect Stormont can be reached, Theresa May has been told by Sinn Fein.

The Prime Minister spoke to political leaders in Northern Ireland as efforts continue to secure the return of devolved government at Stormont.

The powersharing institutions have been collapsed since January 2017 following a breakdown in relations between leading parties the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein.

A fresh round of talks started last week with what was described as a “constructive” meeting of the parties.

On Monday the Prime Minister spoke to Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald, vice president Michelle O’Neill, Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann, Alliance leader Naomi Long, and was due to speak to SDLP leader Colum Eastwood.

Downing Street said Mrs May had previously spoken to the DUP’s Arlene Foster.

Mrs McDonald said she told Mrs May that a deal can be reached.

“We are now into the second week of talks. I told the British Prime Minister the Sinn Fein negotiation team is fully and positively engaged. We believe that the outstanding issues can and must be resolved and the powersharing government re-established at Stormont,” she said.

“The issues we face are not insurmountable or unresolvable. Agreement can be reached and the institutions restored with the positive political will and support of all parties and both governments.”

Mrs McDonald said they also discussed Brexit and legacy issues.

“I remain convinced that agreement is possible, and the powersharing institutions can be re-established operating to the highest standards with equality and rights at their core,” she said.

“The British Government has a decisive and central role in facilitating agreement, guaranteeing the agreements and safeguarding the rights and equality of all citizens.”

Meanwhile Mr Swann said he pressed Mrs May on a number of issues.

“One of these was the need to act urgently to provide long overdue redress to the victims of historical institutional abuse,” he said.

“It recently emerged that the head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, David Sterling, had written to the Secretary of State to ask her to take the work forward, and as a result the Secretary of State now proposes to introduce legislation at Westminster.

“Given that all five local party leaders in Northern Ireland support such a move, I urged the Prime Minister to give her backing to the Secretary of State’s plan and to ensure as swift a passage as possible through Westminster so that some assistance can finally be given to those people who have already had to wait for far too long.”

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The PM is very keen to see progress being made in the talks and the UK Government, working with the Irish Government, is doing everything in its power to make the talks a success.”



From Belfast Telegraph