Political news

Time running out to restore Stormont powersharing, warns Brokenshire

James Brokenshire said the time for action is now
Elizabeth Arnold, Press Association

Secretary of State James Brokenshire has warned "time is short" as he urged the parties to continue to work to reach an agreement to restore powersharing as soon as possible.

Mr Brokenshire told MPs the British government's "clear and resolute focus" is to re-establish devolved government at Stormont.

Speaking during Commons Northern Ireland questions, he said: "Clearly we will do all that we can to support them in the days ahead and the time for action is now."

Prime Minister Theresa May has held separate telephone conversations with DUP leader Arlene Foster and her Sinn Féin counterpart in the north, Michelle O'Neill, urging political leaders to bring back powersharing.

Mr Brokenshire said: "Northern Ireland still remains without a fully functioning, powersharing devolved government. Our clear and resolute focus is to re-establish devolved government at Stormont.

"Together with the Irish government we are continuing to support the parties' efforts to find resolution and form an executive. However time is short and I urge the parties to continue to work to reach an agreement."

DUP Westminster leader Nigel Dodds said: "The Prime Minister has been in touch with the party leaders in Northern Ireland in recent hours and she will have heard from our party leader a total commitment to restoring devolution immediately, with no red lines or preconditions to get on with the job of dealing with health, education, jobs and investment in Northern Ireland."

Mr Brokenshire said the British government was seeing engagement between the DUP and Sinn Féin and he had been "encouraged" by the nature of the intensive engagement that they had shown, but acknowledged that agreement had not been reached.

He added there were a defined number of issues that remained outstanding and there needed to be focus on finding resolution and seeing devolved government restored.

Mr Dodds asked whether Sinn Féin "continue to adhere to the view these matters are not as important as seeking partisan, political demands to be fulfilled or whether any progress was made on that front?"

He added: "Certainly we will continue to intensively engage in those political talks, Northern Ireland needs a devolved government, it needs its executive."

Mr Brokenshire said he welcomed the comments from Mrs Foster about seeing that desire to get back into an executive.

He added: "I would also point to the comments of Michelle O'Neill who has said that she believes that whilst there are difficulties, that a deal is still doable.

"I would certainly encourage him and his party to engage in the way that they have and certainly encouraging all parties to have that focus on seeing devolution restored."

Conservative Edward Argar (Charnwood) thanked Mr Brokenshire for his "clear determination, commitment and hard work in the cause of seeking a return to the powersharing devolved administration we all wish to see".

He added: "It is vitally important that all parties in Northern Ireland continue to approach these discussions in a spirit of compromise and co-operation with our eyes firmly fixed on the need to secure agreement."

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