Stormont parties snub Karen Bradley drinks reception
KAREN Bradley has been forced to call off a Stormont drinks reception today after her invite was snubbed by all the main parties.
The cancellation, which came just 24 hours ahead of the event, is the latest embarrassing setback for the secretary of state, whose performance has been widely criticised over recent months.
Sinn Féin first signalled on Sunday that it wouldn't be attending what the Northern Ireland Office described as a "cross-party discussion event" for all MLAs.
The remaining four main parties all confirmed last night that their MLAs would not be accepting Mrs Bradley's invitation.
The cancellation comes amid growing speculation that the current talks process, which began in early May, is to be wound down over the coming days and parked for the summer.
Last week, Alliance leader Naomi Long told The Irish News that a breakthrough in the negotiations was unlikely before the end of this month.
When the two governments reviewed the process a fortnight ago they identified a "narrow window of opportunity" to reach a deal.
Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann said last night that the talks appeared to be "stuck in no-man's land".
"The secretary of state may have been intending to help the talks move to a more meaningful stage by getting all the MLAs together, but that boat has now sailed," he said.
"It's time to get political leaders together for some hard political graft instead."
An SDLP spokesman said the public wanted politicians to working to return to government rather than attending a drinks reception, while an Alliance spokesman said the party's MLAs would concentrating on the work to restore the institutions.
A DUP spokesman said the event was "unhelpful".
A British government spokesman said Mrs Bradley believed it would have been valuable to bring together MLAs for "an informal event alongside the ongoing talks process".
"The secretary of state respects that the parties have concluded they are not ready for this yet," the spokesman said.