Northern Ireland news

Karen Bradley: Stormont power-sharing deal 'achievable in days'

Secretary of State Karen Bradley has said a power-sharing deal is achievable within days
David Young, Press Association

A DEAL to save power-sharing at Stormont is achievable within the coming days, the Secretary of State has said.

Karen Bradley said an agreement was by no means certain, but she expressed hope resolution between Sinn Féin and the DUP could be secured in the near future.

However, Mrs Bradley declined to outline specific details on the ongoing political negotiations as she updated the House of Commons yesterday, insisting she did not want to jeopardise a successful outcome.

"An accommodation between the parties has not yet been reached, but there is no doubt as to the parties' collective commitment towards the restoration of devolution," said told MPs.

"I firmly believe that an agreement in the coming days, while not certain, is achievable and this remains my focus."

The north has had no power-sharing executive since January last year.

The current talks process has been characterised as a final opportunity to save the devolved institutions before the British Government moves to introduce direct rule from Westminster.

Civil servants have been running Stormont's public services during the impasse, however they are hamstrung by their inability to take major policy decisions.

With the pressing need for budget to be struck for the next financial year, if the latest talks fail, the British Government will face mounting pressure to introduce direct rule to provide financial certainty.

During Northern Ireland questions in the Commons, the DUP's Nigel Dodds pressed Mrs Bradley to make a firm commitment that she would intervene to set a budget.

The Secretary of State declined to offer such a direct pledge, but she highlighted that her predecessor, James Brokenshire, had done something similar for the current year's budget.

Earlier, Tánaiste Simon Coveney also struck an optimistic note as he addressed a business conference in Co Louth.

"There remain challenges for the parties, but I remain convinced that an agreement can and will be reached," he said.

He added: "A new executive though is critical - for decision making in Northern Ireland, for the peace process and for ensuring that Northern Ireland's interests as a whole can be directly and effectively represented through the Brexit negotiations."

Mr Coveney later visited the PSNI's training college in east Belfast.

While he said it was not his role to disclose details of the negotiations or a timeframe for their conclusion, he insisted the format of the talks was working.

"The parties are working intensively to try to find a way forward," he said.

"If the two governments didn't believe that the current approach towards trying to find a way forward wasn't going to work then we would be looking to try to change that approach, we are sticking with it and it's up to the parties to give information to the public in terms of where things stand and what timescale they are on and I think the two governments are working together on this."

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