Belfast Telegraph

Talks to end political crisis may resume next month: Brokenshire

By Noel McAdam

Talks to restore devolved government may resume sooner than expected, it has emerged.

Northern Ireland Secretary of State James Brokenshire indicated he may recall the parties towards the end of August.

A number of party leaders had indicated they did not expect serious talks to get under way again before September.

But, speaking from the United States, Mr Brokenshire said: "I do think it is important we get back into intensive talks towards the latter end of the summer."

However, he refused to speculate on any plans to locate the next phase of the talks away from Stormont Castle.

Mr Brokenshire admitted there was a need to inject fresh momentum after the five main parties bust through another Government deadline last month, without sanction.

He added: "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."

As he prepared to complete a three-day round of briefings with business leaders and politicians, Mr Brokenshire said that Northern Ireland remains open for business and, despite Brexit, new opportunities for investment and jobs are emerging.

He added that he is considering a number of options on how to approach fresh talks to restore the Executive.

"There are always risks around doing something different - as to whether that unpicks or undermines the progress that has already been achieved - but we are thinking carefully what the next steps might need to be."

Mr Brokenshire said he was also encouraging US politicians to use their influence and connections with the local parties in Northern Ireland to push for a resolution to the stalemate.

He added: "People here feel strongly about wanting to see the Executive back in place and are saying that they will support and do all they can to encourage and promote that spirit of compromise and getting people to see the bigger picture on how far Northern Ireland has come."

However, Former Sinn Fein finance minister Mairtin O Muilleoir hit out at Mr Brokenshire's overtures to potential US investors.

"It is a bit rich when it is his Government's disastrous Brexit policy which is doing more than anything to damage our prospects of attracting new investment," he said.

"Many potential investors have already made it clear they are holding off on any decisions due to the current uncertainty.

"The prospect of a hard border and a withdrawal from the single European market and the customs union will mean many more will seek to invest where they can have easy access to the entire EU market.

"The North has been hugely successful in attracting record levels of foreign direct investment, particularly from the US, over recent years and a huge part of that success was built on our position as a key gateway to the European market."

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