Belfast Telegraph

We must up the pace in talks if Stormont is to resume: Farry

Alliance Party deputy leader Stephen Farry
Alliance Party deputy leader Stephen Farry
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

The Alliance Party has said that negotiations to restore power-sharing must intensify significantly over coming weeks if they are to succeed.

The party's deputy leader Stephen Farry was speaking yesterday at Stormont after a further round of talks.

Mr Farry said: "The Prime Minister and Taoiseach set a timescale at the end of next week for reviewing progress.

"While parties are engaging in a constructive way, the current intensity of the talks is not sufficient for substantive progress to be made by that time. That intensity needs to increase significantly if the process is to be successful."

Secretary of State Karen Bradley praised the attitudes of the five main parties engaged in the process.

"I want to pay tribute to the parties and the leader, who all have shown the right attitude and the right determination that they want to see Stormont resolved," she said.

"There are difficult issues, there are difficult things that will need to be addressed, but I am pleased by the progress we are making and the attitude and approach of all party leaders."

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney pledged that the talks would step up a gear. He said cross-party working groups examining the roadblocks to devolution would intensify ahead of a stocktaking review by the two governments at the end of May.

Theresa May and Leo Varadkar are set to discuss progress in the negotiations and to decide whether there is a basis upon which to resurrect the Stormont institutions.

Mr Coveney said: "I think you will see an intensification now of efforts from the leaders within the working groups to try to move toward consensus in the areas where that is possible, and if there are areas where it is not possible, they will outline why.

"Certainly you will see the leaders within those working groups intensifying their efforts and trying to actually push from discussion and accommodation to agreement where they can."

The Tanaiste said that if a basis for agreement was identified at the end of the month, Mrs May and Mr Varadkar would discuss how to move the talks process forward.

"I suspect it will be a more political and direct approach after that if there is a basis for finding an agreement, which I hope there will be," he said.

Asked whether an independent mediator could enter the process, Mr Coveney said he did not think that would happen. "We are trying to get this process done quickly," he added.

"The idea that we would introduce an outsider now, albeit a very well-meaning and potentially very experienced outsider, I don't think is consistent with trying to get this done quickly because it would take time to get to know that person to build the relationships, and so on."

Mr Coveney also acknowledged that events at Westminster at the start of June, when a departing Mrs May would again try to get her Brexit deal passed by Parliament, could prove a distraction for the Stormont process.

"It doesn't take a genius to see that there will be other pressures in Westminster in the first and second week in June when we are also trying to conclude things here," he said.

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