Karen Bradley has called on Northern Ireland’s political parties to “stop grandstanding” and take ownership of seeing devolved government return to Stormont.
The UK Secretary of State for Northern Ireland said: “We need to have dialogue, we need constructive engagement, we need, as I say, parties to stop grandstanding and actually do the right thing.”
Ms Bradley made the comments following talks between senior Irish and UK government ministers at a meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference (BIIGC) in Dublin’s Iveagh House.
She defended as “constructive” a meeting she held with Northern Ireland’s main political parties in Belfast on Thursday, which was branded a “waste of time” by some.
Four of the five parties expressed frustration after the meeting and pressed Ms Bradley to convene multi-party talks.
She said the meeting was initiated to brief the parties on the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions) Bill.
Ms Bradley said the most important thing was that she worked constructively with the parties.
“Let’s stop the grandstanding, let’s stop the soundbites, now is the time we get back in the room and we get talking,” she said.
“I want to see those parties taking an ownership, taking a responsibility and working with me so we can get a process that people can have confidence in and see that they will have devolved government in Stormont again in the near future.”
UK Minister for the Cabinet Office David Lidington said there was no doubt that Brexit remaining unresolved was a factor when it came to trying to restore the Assembly.
But he added: “I don’t think that needs to stop the efforts of the parties to move back towards power sharing.”
Both Mr Lidington and Ms Bradley reiterated the UK Government’s “absolute commitment” to restore devolution.
Ms Bradley said there was “no alternative”.
Brexit negotiations and the absence of powersharing in Northern Ireland topped the agenda of the conference.
Ireland’s deputy premier Simon Coveney said the most challenging item on the agenda was the political stability in Northern Ireland.
He said both the UK and Irish government ministers had engaged in “substantial and serious discussions” in particular about how the institutions in Northern Ireland could be re-established.
“We’re going to keep talking regularly to see how we can put a structure in place that can actually work, that can engage all of the parties and that ensures that in the not-too-distant future we have a structure people can believe in,” he added.
North/south security co-operation and bilateral co-operation between the British and Irish governments was also discussed.
Ireland’s Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said security concerns including the security threat from paramilitary groups on the island of Ireland were discussed.
“There is sadly no question of the real and persistent threat to life and community safety,” Mr Flanagan said.
“Their terrorist intentions are lethal,” he added.
The conference coincided with UK Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab arriving in Northern Ireland for a one-day visit to the region.
He visited Stormont on Friday afternoon to meet with local political parties.
Powersharing government at Stormont has been collapsed since January 2017 following a breakdown in relations between the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein.
Established under the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, the BIIGC focuses on bilateral agreement between the two countries.
Ahead of the meeting, Mr Coveney said a strong UK-Irish friendship was more important than ever.
Looking forward to welcoming @DLidington + Karen Bradley to Dublin for British Irish Intergovernmental Conf. with me + @CharlieFlanagan. Strong UK/Irish friendship, trust+cooperation more NB than ever. Legacy, Security Coop, East-West relations + NI Pol stability all on Agenda pic.twitter.com/H5fHCpqWCP— Simon Coveney (@simoncoveney) November 2, 2018
In a tweet, he said: “Looking forward to welcoming @DLidington (and) Karen Bradley to Dublin for British Irish Intergovernmental conference with me (and) @CharlieFlanagan.”
He added: “Strong UK/Irish friendship, trust (and) cooperation more NB than ever. Legacy, security coop, East-West relations (and) NI political stability all on agenda.”