Belfast Telegraph

Time for a real negotiation to start in Stormont talks, urges Mary-Lou McDonald

Northern Ireland’s political parties have been engaged in talks in recent weeks in an attempt to reach to deal to resurrect power sharing government.

Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill, president Mary-Lou McDonald and MLA Conor Murphy (Rebecca Black/PA)
Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill, president Mary-Lou McDonald and MLA Conor Murphy (Rebecca Black/PA)

Mary-Lou McDonald has urged for "real negotiations" to start as talks to agree the return of devolved government in Northern Ireland continue.

The Sinn Fein president called for a “step change” in the pace of the talks at Stormont following weeks of discussions between the parties in the region.

“We have had two weeks now of very constructive dialogue,” she said.

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Powersharing government at Stormont has been collapsed for more than two years following the break down in relations between Northern Ireland’s leading parties the DUP and Sinn Fein.Those parties remain split over the place of the Irish language in society, abortion and the recognition of same-sex marriage.Numerous attempts to reach a resolution have ended without success.

“Sinn Fein has engaged in this process fully and constructively and we believe that it has been helpful and now we need to move to a real negotiation.

“Now we need to move beyond discussion and we need to move to a process which will actually allow us to resolve the outstanding issues, that means that we need to see a step change in terms of the pace and momentum of the talks, it means we need to get beyond broad discussion and into the arena of negotiating and of agreement.

“We have said from the beginning that we are here to get a deal, to do the business, we do believe that this is decision time, we believe that this process led by the two governments has raised expectations that the outstanding rights issues will be resolved, has raised expectations that sustainable powersharing can be established and a system of government that serves the needs of every citizen.

“We have always said that is doable, that’s our position and that’s our belief but it does require leadership and it does require political will.

“So next week needs to look very different from this week, there needs to be a radical step change and we are here to resolve the issues to ensure that people have sustainable powersharing, that people have good government, government that makes room for every citizen, we’re up for that and I think that next week the test will be for the two governments and the other parties as to whether they are up for that too.”

Powersharing government at Stormont has been collapsed for more than two years following the break down in relations between Northern Ireland’s leading parties the DUP and Sinn Fein.

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Powersharing government at Stormont has been collapsed following a break down in relations between the DUP and Sinn Fein in January 2017 (PA)

Those parties remain split over the place of the Irish language in society, abortion and the recognition of same-sex marriage.

Numerous attempts to reach a resolution have ended without success.

In a statement on Thursday, Secretary of State Karen Bradley said: “This has been the first week of the new intensive phase of talks.

“We are working hard to achieve the objective we all want to see – the restoration of the devolved institutions at Stormont. We had leadership-level round tables twice this week, with the working groups continuing to work through the challenging issues every day.

“Nobody is under any illusion that the route ahead will be easy. There are significant challenges ahead but we continue to make progress.

“Next week we will accelerate the process further, with more frequent meetings at leadership level to discuss the outcomes from the working groups. All our efforts are focused on reaching agreement in the weeks ahead.”

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