Belfast Telegraph

Kenny warning on peace process deal

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has warned political parties in Northern Ireland that the window is narrowing for a deal to rescue the peace process.

As former US senator Gary Hart returns to try to break the deadlock in cross-party negotiations, Mr Kenny urged leaders to step up their efforts.

"I recognise that complex and difficult issues remain to be addressed," he said.

"However, politics - and political leaders - have to now focus on delivering an agreement for all the people, even if that requires difficult negotiation and compromise."

Mr Kenny warned: "The window is narrowing and I urge all the parties to intensify their efforts in the immediate period ahead and seize the opportunity to secure an agreement."

The premier's call follows a bleak prediction last week by the Northern Ireland Secretary that there was only a slim chance of a deal.

However, Theresa Villiers later qualified her comments with a more upbeat assessment that the negotiations between the five main Stormont parties have reached a positive turning point, a lthough she added an agreement was still a long way off.

Mr Kenny and British prime minister David Cameron have signalled their intention to travel to Belfast ahead of an effective Christmas deadline.

The Taoiseach said a progress report after seven weeks of talks confirmed all parties' strong support for the talks to continue and intensify.

"The Irish Government will continue to support the parties in their efforts to reach such an agreement," he said.

The talks are centred on resolving an impasse over the issues of flags, parades and how Northern Ireland deals with its violent past.

The future of the devolved Stormont Assembly and its failure to implement Westminster welfare reforms is also being negotiated.

Mr Hart is expected to be in Belfast throughout this week.

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