Belfast Telegraph

Stormont talks: Power-sharing deal 'can be done in the short term', says Sinn Fein's Murphy

Senior Sinn Fein negotiator Conor Murphy speaking to the media at Stormont. Credit: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Senior Sinn Fein negotiator Conor Murphy speaking to the media at Stormont. Credit: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy has said a deal to restore power-sharing "can be done in the short term".

Mr Murphy was speaking following the first roundtable discussion between the parties since the Christmas break.

Northern Ireland has been with a functioning government for almost three years.

 

An Irish Language Act, reform of the petition of concern mechanism and dealing with the legacy of the Troubles are among the main sticking points in negotiations.

Secretary of State Julian Smith has warned that, if there is no agreement by January 13, he will be compelled to call a fresh Assembly election.

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DUP leader Arlene Foster and party colleagues meet with Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith at Stormont House. Credit: Jonathan Porter / Press Eye

Conor Murphy said the discussion lasted just 30-45 minutes, but that his party sees no need to draw the talks out until the January 13 deadline.

"We had an opportunity to meet with both governments and with the other parties in an attempt to pick up where we left off, and hopefully in a very short period of time bring to a successful conclusion these talks," he said.

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Sinn Fein’s vice president Michelle O''Neill and party colleague Conor Murphy meet with Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith at Stormont House. Credit: Jonathan Porter/Press Eye

"For our part, our objective has always been to deliver to restore credible sustainable functioning institutions which deliver for everyone, which have sufficient resources to deliver our public services and are based on genuine power-sharing on the principles of the Good Friday Agreement, equality, respect and parity of esteem.

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SDLP leader Colum Eastwood and party colleagues meet with Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith at Stormont House. Credit: Jonathan Porter/Press Eye

"We think agreement can be reached in short order, we don't see any need to run this down to the wire to January 13 in some kind of dramatic way.

Anti-Irish Language Act protesters outside Stormont. Credit: Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker Press
Anti-Irish Language Act protesters outside Stormont. Credit: Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker Press

"The issues that we are dealing with are all well rehearsed, what we need now is political will to get down to resolving very very quickly and that is going to be our focus in the next day or two."

Mr Murphy outlined some of the issues where agreement remains to be reached.

"There are a number of issues that need to be talked out, there are obvious ones around language provision, the petition of concern and its usage, but there are also issues this afternoon which will be talked out around programme for government, financial resources available to any new Executive," he said.

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Alliance MP Stephen Farry and a party colleague meet with Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith at Stormont House. Credit: Jonathan Porter/Press Eye

The DUP and Sinn Fein held separate meetings with Julian Smith, before a roundtable with the other Stormont parties and the Irish Government.

On Thursday morning, DUP leader Arlene Foster said she is hopeful negotiations will be successful.

"I very much believe, from my own personal faith and through my own political life, that it is important to have hope, and I do have hope for these negotiations," she told the BBC.

"Hope for the people of Northern Ireland, because they all want to see government returned."

Mrs Foster also said that political parties "should not fear" the prospect of an election, but she questioned what a fresh election would achieve.

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Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aiken and party colleagues meet with Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith at Stormont House. Credit: Jonathan Porter/Press Eye

A number of protesters stating their opposition to an Irish Language Act being included in any potential deal set up camp outside Stormont.

Unite Unionists spokesman John Ross claimed such an act would be used to "further destabilise Northern Ireland", insisting Irish language speakers are already "well funded and catered for".

"We have no difficulties with people wanting to speak Irish if that is their wish, but what we have difficulties with is if it is enshrined in law with an Irish language commissioner then we're aware, as the Good Friday Agreement was abused, it will be abused by Sinn Fein," he said.

Negotiations were paused over Christmas, after the DUP were accused of standing in the way of a deal.

On Wednesday, Irish Foreign Affairs Ministers Simon Coveney called for a "new beginning" for politics in Northern Ireland and urged "leadership and generosity" from all sides.

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