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Naomi Long: 'Deck stacked against' Stormont deal this month

Alliance leader Naomi Long
Alliance leader Naomi Long

Alliance leader Naomi Long has said there is "little prospect" of a breakthrough in the Stormont talks due to "tension and a lack of trust" between parties.

Talks aimed at restoring power-sharing have been ongoing since the council elections last month, with Tanaiste Simon Coveney stating negotiations are now focused on "three or four key areas where we don't have agreed compromise right now".

Announcing talks would intensify earlier this month, the secretary of state said there was a narrow window of opportunity to restore the devolved institutions.

Talks between Sinn Fein and the DUP collapsed in February 2018 after a disagreement over an Irish Language Act.

Speaking to the Irish News, Naomi Long said it would be an "uphill battle" to secure a deal before the end of the month, with the Brexit extension and resignation of Theresa May as Prime Minister adding to the difficulties.

"To be blunt, as far as agreement before the summer goes, I think the deck is heavily stacked against us," she said.

"If I really had to call it – I think it can be done by the end of June and I believe it should be done by the end of June, but I think it possibly won't be done by the end of June and that would be a shame."

Mrs Long, who won a seat in the European Parliament last month, also voiced her opinion on the Tory leadership contest, stating front runner Boris Johnson is "in the same mould as Trump - you either laugh or you cry".

"I think Boris is an opportunist – I think he will say what is required to get himself into Number 10 and to become prime minister but once he is there he will say what he likes," she said.

"He is less of an ideological Brexiteer than many of his colleagues and has used Brexit as a mechanism to become prime minister."

She also poured scorn on Environment Secretary Michael Gove, who she described as an "integrationist and anti-devolutionist who vehemently opposed the Good Friday Agreement".

In 2000, Mr Gove wrote a paper called Northern Ireland: the Price of Peace, in which he was strongly critical of the Good Friday Agreement, which he called a “rigged referendum”, a “mortal stain” and “a humiliation of our army, police and parliament”.

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