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Decision on suspension of Stormont talks imminent - reports

Stormont has been in cold storage since devolution collapsed in early 2017 (Liam McBurney/PA)
Stormont has been in cold storage since devolution collapsed in early 2017 (Liam McBurney/PA)

A decision on whether to suspend talks aimed at restoring power-sharing over the summer could be made on Wednesday, according to reports.

Party leaders are due to meet for another round of talks at Stormont - the day after the three-month anniversary of the murder of journalist Lyra McKee in Londonderry.

It is understood the British and Irish Government's could decide on whether to pause talks over the summer, the BBC reports.

Downing Street have said that "real and substantive" differences remain between Northern Ireland's political partries.

Talks to restore devolved Government in Northern Ireland should not be suspended for the summer, Michelle O’Neill said (Joe Boland/PA).
Talks to restore devolved Government in Northern Ireland should not be suspended for the summer, Michelle O’Neill said (Joe Boland/PA).

A fresh rounds of talks was announced in the wake of Ms McKee's murder in April, however they appear to have stalled in the last week.

On Sunday, Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle said negotiations should not be suspended, however so far they had been "tinkering around the edges", with no "real negotiation" actually taking place.

She also stated the party is determined to deliver marriage equality, an Irish language act and an anti-poverty strategy - prompting DUP leader Arlene Foster to publicly slam Sinn Fein's "demands".

The former First Minister tweeted: "SF's idea of negotiation is to lay down demands and expect everyone else to accede to them. This needs to change so we can get agreement which respects all parts of our divided society.

"We continue to engage to find agreement. We need to build a cohesive NI, not one built on separation."

Then on Monday, the talks process was dealt another blow when it became apparent that all of the main political parties had rebuffed invitations from Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley to a drinks reception at Stormont House on Wednesday for "informal cross-party discussions".

DUP leader Arlene Foster slammed Sinn Fein's demands
DUP leader Arlene Foster slammed Sinn Fein's demands

On Monday evening, the Northern Ireland Office announced the reception was cancelled, laying the blame squarely at the feet of the parties.

A spokesperson said that Mrs Bradley thought the event would be a useful opportunity to bring MLAs together "for an informal event alongside the ongoing talks process".

"This was part of the drive to make the process more inclusive, beyond those who sit around the talks table, and to help build relationships ahead of the restoration of the Assembly," the spokesperson said.

"As she has said, her top priority is to bring the talks to a successful conclusion, and tomorrow's event was intended to be a further step on that road.

"The Secretary of State respects that the parties have concluded they are not ready for this yet. The event will therefore not take place."

In the past fortnight, both the British and Irish Government's have said there is a "narrow window" for a breakthrough in the talks, however there have no signs of concrete progress.

Northern Ireland has been without a functioning Government since Stormont collapsed in 2017 in the wake of the RHI scandal.

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