Secretary of State Karen Bradley says she 'cannot impose' a timetable on 'two grown-up parties' to restore devolution
SECRETARY of State Karen Bradley has said she "cannot impose" a deal or a timetable on the DUP and Sinn Féin to restore devolution.
Mrs Bradley, who is due to visit Belfast this week, insisted her role was to "facilitate not impose" and said she had to be careful not to do anything that might make the process go "backwards".
"I cannot tell two grown-up parties in the DUP and Sinn Féin, who are the two parties that need to make an agreement, to reach an accommodation....I cannot impose on them what that accommodation looks like," she said.
"They have to do that themselves."
Speaking after a series of engagements to mark St Patrick's Day in the US, Mrs Bradley said she did not agree with comments by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who has called for a re-intensification of the talks after Easter.
"Putting artificial deadlines, putting barriers in the way, putting things that stop the parties.....is not what we're about," she said.
"That doesn't mean we're sitting on our hands and hoping it all goes right. Absolutely not."
However, she acknowledged that not having the institutions functioning as the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement loomed made it a rather "hollow celebration".
"Not having devolved government at the point of the 20th anniversary is, as Senator George Mitchell, who I've just seen, said, makes it a rather hollow celebration," she told the Press Association.
Mrs Bradley also said she is going to "reflect" on whether the re-installation of a US envoy might help the impasse.
"It's something I'm considering," she said. "I want to reflect on some of the conversations I've had this week, thoughts on what a representative could do, an economic role maybe, and come to a determination."
But she added: "I don't think we should assume that (because) something worked in the past it's going to work now. We've got to look at the situation we face today."
During her trip to the US, she said she had spoken to investors and businesses who are "desperate" for a return to devolution.
Meanwhile, an Ulster Unionist MLA has accused Mrs Bradley's office of being "totally lost on legacy" after failing to arrange a meeting to discuss the subject.
Upper Bann MLA Doug Beattie said: "On numerous occasions over the last number of weeks we have a sought a meeting with the Northern Ireland Office legacy team to discuss a number of issues, particularly the public consultation, pension for innocent victims and statute of limitations."