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Simon Coveney: 'More than some movement' made in Stormont talks

Simon Coveney (Brian Lawless/PA)
Simon Coveney (Brian Lawless/PA)

Tanaiste Simon Coveney has said there has been "more than some movement" made in the talks aimed at restoring powersharing at Stormont.

Earlier this week, Mr Coveney, along with Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley, met with the leaders of the five main parties to set out the framework for the talks.

It is understood the tone of the preliminary meeting was more positive than the last gathering of party leaders at the end of last year.

Six previous talks initiatives to restore devolution have failed to find consensus.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Friday, the Tanaiste said progress in the talks has already been made.

"There’s been more than some movement and when positive things happen, it’s important to recognise them," he said.

"We started a formal talks process and on Wednesday, we had what’s called a British-Irish intergovernmental conference here in London. Yesterday and again today, we are seeing work streams, that all of the parties in Northern Ireland are part of.”

Mr Coveney said the killing of journalist Lyra McKee last month showed "what happens in a vacuum where politics isn’t working", and that needs to be corrected.

“There is an acceptance amongst all political parties in Northern Ireland – nationalist and unionists and neither – that they have an obligation to try and make this process work,” he added.

“The British and Irish governments will work closely together to try and do some of the heavy lifting with the political parties that can change this within weeks, not months.”

Northern Ireland has been without a functioning government for more than two years, when the then-Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness resigned over the DUP's handling of the botched RHI scheme.

Since then, several other issues have become sticking points in negotiations, most notably the implementation of an Irish language act and legislation on same-sex marriage.

A framework has been introduced for the latest round of talks, with five working groups set up to focus on the detail of the key issues at the heart of the impasse.

Agenda-setting and stock-taking meetings between the five leaders and two governments are also scheduled to be held at least once a week.

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