James Brokenshire: Some progress made on cultural and language issues
THE DUP and Sinn Féin have made some progress on language and culture issues during talks aimed at restoring power-sharing, the Secretary of State has said.
James Brokenshire warned that while the parties have resolved some sticking points, no deal has yet been reached and "clear differences" remain.
He urged the parties to focus their efforts on resolving outstanding issues as talks continue.
In a written parliamentary statement, Mr Brokenshire said yesterday: "The DUP and Sinn Féin continue their discussions towards the formation of an Executive in Northern Ireland.
"The parties have reduced the number of issues between them - including on some aspects of language and culture - but clear differences still remain.
"It is crucial that, with this support, the parties continue to do their utmost to reach an agreement which allows them to make those decisions which are important to the people of Northern Ireland."
He added: "I have urged the parties to focus their remaining efforts and energies on closing the outstanding gaps swiftly to find a resolution which will pave the way for the restoration of devolved government in Northern Ireland. With the right spirit of compromise this can be achieved and now is the time to come together and reach agreement."
The parties have been engaged in months of talks aimed at restoring the Executive.
The DUP and Sinn Féin remain at odds on several issues, including the republican party's proposal for a standalone Irish language act. Instead, the DUP wants a language bill which incorporates the Ulster Scots dialect.
Power-sharing collapsed earlier this year when Sinn Féin politician, the late Martin McGuinness, resigned as deputy first minister in protest over how the DUP handled the botched Renewable Heat Incentive scheme.
Mr Brokenshire has previously said the north is on a "glide path" to a form of direct rule from Westminster in the absence of a power-sharing agreement by the middle of this month.
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin's Pat Sheehan told the BBC there was "quite a bit of work to be done" if his party and the DUP are to overcome their differences.
He said republicans will "continue working until we get a deal or the thing falls apart".