Political news

Irish and British governments to meet Stormont parties next week

Secretary of State James Brokenshire speaks to the media after meeting members of the British Irish Chamber of Commerce at the offices of KPMG in Dublin. Picture by Niall Carson /PA Wire
Deborah McAleese

THE British and Irish governments are due to meet Stormont's political parties next week as part of renewed attempts to restore the Northern Ireland Executive.

Secretary of State James Brokenshire and foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney said they will be travelling to Belfast to encourage political leaders to restart a stalled talks process.

However, Mr Brokenshire refused to give a date for the resumption of negotiations aimed at resurrecting devolution.

He said he would "come forward with further information in my own way in respect of the next step around the talks process".

Mr Brokenshire admitted that "differences firmly do remain" between the parties but added that he was going forward with "positive intent".

The secretary of state was in Dublin yesterday to discuss the situation at Stormont and issues around Brexit with Mr Coveney.

Mr Coveney said he intends to visit Belfast next week to meet with politicians.

"Northern Ireland needs a voice through a government of its own," he said.

"We need to see a resumption to those discussions and hopefully a conclusion as soon as possible.

"We don't want talks that are ongoing for a long period of time."

Northern Ireland has been without a functioning devolved government since January when the power-sharing coalition collapsed amid the fall-out from the RHI scandal.

Formal talks were suspended without agreement in July.

Earlier this week Sinn Fein's northern leader Michelle O'Neill wrote to the British and Irish governments proposing a formal resumption of talks and suggesting parties should be given a tight deadline from next Monday to restore the government.

But the DUP's Simon Hamilton described her proposal as a "stunt", saying his party had been ready to form an executive for months.

Yesterday, Ms O'Neill said the British and Irish governments should have a plan for the process.

She also said they need to make clear that "agreements must be implemented and that citizens' rights and equality are respected".

"If the governments do not agree with this approach they need to make clear what agreements they are prepared to set aside and what rights they are prepared to deny to citizens in the north."

She added: "The denial of rights to citizens, language rights, the right to equal marriage and the right to a coroner's inquest which citizens enjoy everywhere else on these islands must end."

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