Belfast Telegraph

UK and Irish governments to hold Stormont talks - reports

Northern Ireland has been without devolved government for over two years. (Niall Carson/PA)
Northern Ireland has been without devolved government for over two years. (Niall Carson/PA)

The UK and Irish governments are planning on holding talks in a bid to restore power-sharing in Northern Ireland, it has been reported.

The Republic of Ireland's state broadcaster RTE reports that Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley and Irish Tanaiste Simon Coveney will hold a joint press conference in Belfast on Friday afternoon to make the announcement.

It is understood the talks will start following the local government election next week, but prior to the European Parliament elections at the end of May.

 

The news comes after a priest at the funeral of murdered journalist Lyra McKee challenged Northern Ireland's politicians as to why it had taken her death to bring them together.

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DUP leader Arlene Foster with Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O’Neill before the funeral service for murdered journalist Lyra McKee at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast. (PA)

On Wednesday evening, DUP leader Arlene Foster suggested restoring the Assembly and Executive immediately, while having a parallel talks process to work out outstanding issues.

Sinn Fein's deputy leader Michelle O'Neill, however, rejected the proposal, stating it "will not work".

"The citizens here deserve to have their rights delivered on, marriage equality, language rights, legacy inquest rights," she added.

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Michelle O’Neill (Liam McBurney/PA)

"These things need to be delivered, and that in itself then paves the way for the institutions to be restored."

Northern Ireland has been without a functioning government since the collapse of power-sharing more than two years ago.

Stormont fell when the then-Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness resigned over the DUP's handling of the botched RHI scheme.

Since then, disagreements over the introduction of an Irish Language Act, legislation on same-sex marriage and legacy issues have been major hurdles in talks on the restoration of Stormont.

In a tweet responding to a Belfast Telegraph story about Sinn Fein calling for an Irish language act, Mrs Foster said: "I respect that Irish is important to those who cherish the language.

"But schools & hospitals matter to everyone. Stormont should be restored immediately to deal with key reforms. A parallel all-party talks process can deal with those issues SF wish to raise."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has proposed suspending the petition of concern mechanism in a bid to restore the power-sharing institutions.

The Northern Ireland Office would neither confirm nor deny reports but a spokesman said it was longstanding policy to seek restoration of devolution as soon as possible.

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