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Downing Street appears to deny speculation Theresa May will chair make-or-break peace talks in NI

Reports had suggested over the weekend that British Prime Minister Theresa May would fly to Northern Ireland to chair political talks. Picture by Matt Cardy/PA Wire

DOWNING Street last night appeared to deny speculation that Theresa May will chair make-or-break talks in Northern Ireland.

It was reported yesterday that the British Prime Minister would fly into Belfast this week in a bid to kick-start talks aimed at restoring devolution.

Powersharing has been on hold since early this year when the late Sinn Féin deputy first minister Martin McGuinness resigned in protest at the DUP's handling of a botched green energy scheme.

It has been seven months since Stormont ministers took decisions, and political negotiations were paused over the summer.

While there has been no resumption of formal talks between the parties, Sinn Féin and the DUP last week revealed they had been engaged in discussions.

Secretary of State James Brokenshire said on Friday that he would hold further bilateral discussions with the parties today.

The Sunday World reported that Mrs May would chair discussions at Montalto Estate, Ballynahinch, Co Down with the two political parties to try and breathe new life into the failing political situation.

However, a source at Number 10 last night said "no visit was planned".

A spokesman for Mrs May would only say that "we will update the details of the Prime Minister's diary ahead of any event".

An NIO spokesman also refused to comment on the reports of a visit.

"Exchanges between the DUP and Sinn Féin have been taking place over recent days, and will continue next week," he said.

"On Monday there will be further bilaterals involving all of the parties.

"And for the rest of the week there will be further intensive dialogue between the DUP and Sinn Féin."

"The UK government and the Irish government will continue to engage with all parties."

It comes as Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said he was hopeful power sharing can be restored in the north, but recognises there will be challenges in the process.

Speaking at the Irish Labour Awards in New York, he said he believed a solution that brought a "serious step change" was needed, according to the BBC.

"Despite the enormous challenges in trying to find a possible agreement we believe it is incumbent on us all to find a solution which brings about a serious step change in how the institutions must operate," he said.

"I am not naive about the challenges facing all of us but I am hopeful that we can end the current crisis and restore the political institutions on the basis of equality and respect."

Referring to Brexit, Mr Adams added that the rights of workers, their jobs and standard of living are under threat, and that it presents "for the island of Ireland the most serious social, economic and political threat for a generation".

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