Green Party suggests five candidates as 'independent chair' of Stormont discussions

Former American diplomat Barbara Stephenson has been suggested as a possible candidate to chair discussions at Stormont. Picture by Stephen Davison
Gareth McKeown

THE Green Party has drawn up a shortlist of five candidates to chair political discussions at Stormont.

In repeating calls for an independent talks chair to be appointed, the party has written to other political leaders in the north, detailing a list of names, which includes former US Consul Barbara Stephenson.

Mrs Stephenson was suggested by Independent Unionist MP Sylvia Hermon as a possible overseer of discussions during a Commons debate on Tuesday. She acted as American Consul General in Northern Ireland from 2001 to 2004.

Other names offered by the Green party include Tom Arnold, who recently chaired the Irish convention on the Constitution and former Foreign Minister of Germany and Green politician Joschka Fischer.

Former President of the Methodist Church in Ireland Rev Harold Good and Derry city centre manager Jim Roddy are names also suggested for the role. The former played a key role in the peace process including overseeing decommissioning, while the latter has served as a successful parades negotiator.

"It became clear last weekend that the structure of the talks was not conducive to progress. When it comes to legacy the UK Government, and therefore the Secretary of State, is party to the discussions so cannot be an independent arbiter," Green Party leader Steven Agnew said.

"I would urge James Brokenshire to give the parties every possible chance to break the deadlock and come to an agreement. A properly managed process is central to making that happen."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said earlier this week a new process with an independent chair was needed, while Sinn Féin leader in the north Michelle O'Neill said she was open to the suggestion that an outside chair be appointed to mediate new talks.

Northern Ireland Secretary of State James Brokenshire has so far refused to be drawn on the matter.

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