Arlene Foster: 'Restore Assembly now and hold talks'
DUP leader Arlene Foster has called on the Assembly to be restored immediately in parallel with a talks process to "resolve outstanding issues" between the parties.
Mrs Foster was speaking after the priest at the funeral of murdered journalist Lyra McKee challenged politicians as to why it had taken the 29-year-old's death to unite them.
"Why does it take the death of a 29-year-old woman with her whole life in front of her to get to this point?" Fr Martin Magill asked.
The DUP leader, who was seated next to Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald at the service, said she has spoken separately with Secretary of State Karen Bradley and Irish Tanaiste Simon Coveney about the restoration of the Assembly.
"For our part I want to ensure we can get down to business. We all need to come to the table in a spirit of wanting to restore the Assembly and dealing with the issues which matter most to people," she said.
"It is time to get Government functioning so we can implement key reforms to fix our hospitals and schools. Whilst we have been able to deliver millions of extra resources from Westminster, we could do so much more though through a restored Assembly and Executive.
"We stand ready to restore our local government immediately and in parallel with a talks process to resolve outstanding issues.
"A parallel process can ensure that we immediately get back to work at Stormont, but that the issues which have held up the restoration of devolution to receive the focus and respect which they deserve in a time-limited process.”
Northern Ireland has been without a functioning government since the collapse of Stormont more than two years ago.
Power-sharing fell apart after the then-Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness resigned over the DUP's handling of the botched RHI scheme.
Since then, Sinn Fein has called on other issues to be addressed before the Assembly can be restored, such as the implementation of an Irish Language Act and the introduction of legislation on same-sex marriage.
In response to Fr Magill's comments, Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said the party is ready to play a "full part" in a "serious and meaningful" talks process.
“Political leaders should be working together. Sinn Fein wants to see the full restoration of the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement," she said.
"Sinn Fein wants to be in government making decisions on issues which impact on the lives of local people.
"We have told the British Prime Minister and the Taoiseach that the current situation of stalemate of no Executive or Assembly is untenable and cannot continue.
"Sinn Fein is ready to play our full part in a serious and meaningful talks process which removes obstacles to power-sharing, delivers rights, and restores the Assembly.
“The two governments should now meet with urgency through the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference, to provide solutions to the outstanding rights issues, which are at the heart of sustainable power sharing.”
On Tuesday, Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley said she will hold discussions with Stormont's party leaders this week in an effort to restore powersharing.
Belfast Telegraph Digital