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Charlie Flanagan: Parties 'positive' over power-sharing talks

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan has described the cross-party talks aimed at restoring power-sharing as "positive". File picture by Pacemaker
Michael McHugh and

POLITICIANS have shown a positive attitude at the power-sharing talks, the Republic's foreign affairs minister has said.

Charlie Flanagan said yesterday that the parties had recognised the urgency of the situation.

Only two weeks remain to strike a deal as the threat of a second snap election looms.

"There is a positive disposition on the part of all parties who are now currently in the assembly," Mr Flanagan said.

"It is important that the urgency of the situation be fully acknowledged and I detect an acknowledgement in that regard.

"We have two weeks within which to form an executive in accordance with the wishes of the people in the recent election."

He said there was a particular urgency given the imminent withdrawal of the UK from the EU and the consequences for Northern Ireland.

New assembly members signed in yesterday for the first time since this month's snap election.

Members gave an undertaking to support the rule of law and signed the membership roll - but no other business was done as the parties remain locked in talks aimed at restoring power-sharing.

Alliance leader Naomi Long said the assembly needs to be up and running as soon as possible.

She said voters wanted a return to power-sharing.

"It's now up to the parties to get round the table and get a deal sorted as soon as possible," she said.

"That is what really matters. People voted in the hope they would see that change and we would be able to move our society forward."

If no agreement is reached on forming a new executive by March 27, the north faces another snap election or a period of direct rule.

The recent poll saw an end to the unionist majority at Stormont.

Sinn Féin now holds one seat fewer in the assembly than the DUP.

Meanwhile, it was reported last night that businesses who have received payments under the botched £490 million Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme are likely to have their details published later this week.

A judge ruled before the snap election that the identities of hundreds of companies benefitting from the green energy scheme could be released by then economy minister Simon Hamilton.

However, Mr Justice Deeny prohibited the disclosure of the names of individuals receiving money until any objections they have to being identified are properly considered.

With Mr Hamilton having left office, it is understood that any decision on publishing the names has fallen to the department's permanent secretary.

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