Assembly Election

'Constructive' talks involving Ardoyne mediators and James Brokenshire

TALKS: Mr Brokenshire speaks to the media at Stormont castle last week PictureS: Mal McCann
Michael McHugh, Press Association

Mediators who helped resolve one of the north's bitterest parading disputes have met the Secretary of State as part of a bid to restore powersharing.

The "constructive" talks involved hugely experienced community figures who helped defuse the Ardoyne flashpoint march, which has seen dozens of police officers injured and relations between local residents ruined by sectarian violence.

Jim Roddy has been at the forefront of successful negotiations with the Apprentice Boys loyal order over its demonstrations in Derry and last year helped the opposing parties in the violent north Belfast impasse reach agreement.

Ardoyne Catholic priest Father Gary Donegan was another key player in ensuring 2016's march passed off peacefully.

A statement from their Making It Work Group said: "We held a candid and constructive meeting with the Secretary of State today to discuss community issues relevant to the ongoing talks process.

"We have agreed to meet with him again over the course of the next three weeks and wished him, Minister Flanagan and all the parties every success during their deliberations."

Secretary of State James Brokenshire and Dublin's Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan are attempting to piece together the devolved administration and face a three-week deadline before another Stormont election is called.

Mr Brokenshire met the Making It Work Group for "candid" talks at Stormont on Friday, a day when ministers normally attend to constituency business, in a signal of his desire to do a deal.

The organisation comprises Mr Roddy, Fr Donegan, Ryan Feeney from Queen's University, who has a background in community relations with the Gaelic Athletic Association, and Professor Peter McBride.

A British government source close to the talks suggested Mr Brokenshire is putting every ounce of effort into reaching an accord between the five main political parties at Stormont.

Permission for the contentious loyal order procession past the nationalist Ardoyne in north Belfast was granted after an historic deal between the loyal orders and nationalist residents' group the Crumlin Ardoyne Residents' Association.

It followed years of serious violence.

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