Fresh round of Stormont talks on agenda as James Brokenshire travels to Dublin
SECRETARY of State James Brokenshire will today travel to Dublin for talks with foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney as efforts to convene fresh Stormont negotiations begin.
The two ministers are also expected to discuss Brexit in their first meeting since the UK government published a position paper on the border.
While Mr Brokenshire has made it clear he wants a new round of talks aimed at restoring the Stormont executive, he has yet to specify the timetable or format.
Sinn Féin has written to both governments suggesting that "focused and time-limited" negotiations should resume on Monday of next week.
The party's northern leader Michelle O'Neill said yesterday that it was committed to making the power-sharing institutions work.
However, she repeated her assertion that Stormont will only be restored "on the basis of rights, of respect, and of equality".
"What we've seen from the DUP to date is a failure to deal with the issues which Martin McGuinness outlined in his resignation letter," the Mid-Ulster MLA said.
"Clearly we have to see previous agreements implemented in order to establish the executive, but this can be done, it can be done very, very quickly if people have the right approach."
The DUP has described the Sinn Féin suggestion as a "stunt", while the Ulster Unionist Party said republicans' needed to remove their "red lines" if the talks were to be meaningful.
Strangford MLA Simon Hamilton claimed Sinn Féin was holding the north to "ransom" with its "political wish-list".
“The DUP are not saying that we shouldn't be dealing with issues like the Irish language, like other cultures as well, but we should be doing those in parallel with forming a government," the former finance minister said.
"The DUP would go up to Stormont this morning and form a government to deal with those difficult issues that there are around health, education and the economy, which we believe are more important than the ones that Sinn Féin are stalling the restoration of an executive on."
Alliance MLA Kellie Armstrong said the talks should begin again immediately.
She described Sinn Féin's call for negotiations to resume next Monday as "a little cynical".
"Alliance has been working throughout the summer months, speaking to other parties and engaging with stakeholders – our MLA team has also been meeting regularly to coordinate action and will continue to do so," she said.
"It is frustrating we don't currently have a functioning executive and in the meantime many important issues are falling by the wayside. That's why it's vital everyone gets back around the table and does so immediately."