Northern Ireland news

'Why is Theresa May not in Northern Ireland?'

 James Brokenshire rejected calls and said Prime Minister Theresa May was deeply engaged in the process. Darren Staples/PA Wire
Lizzy Buchan, Press Association Political Staff

Labour MPs have urged the Prime Minister to join talks in Northern Ireland amid concerns that her "laissez faire approach" could damage progress.

Former shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Vernon Coaker led calls for Theresa May and Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny to join discussions on forming a new powersharing executive in Northern Ireland after talks stalled.

His concern was echoed by Conor McGinn (St Helen's North) who questioned why Mrs May had not visited Northern Ireland after recent trips to Wales and Scotland.

However, Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire rejected the calls and said both leaders were deeply engaged in the process.

Mr McGinn told Mr Brokenshire: "The perceived laissez-faire approach of the Prime Minister does you no favours.

"The Prime Minister was in Wales last week, Scotland this week. She should go to Northern Ireland with the Taoiseach, convene these talks and find a resolution sooner rather than later."

Owen Smith, a special adviser during the Northern Ireland peace talks, said the presence of the Prime Minister could add weight to discussions on the future of Northern Ireland.

Mr Smith (Pontypridd) said: "History does show that the engagement of the Taoiseach and the Prime Minister is the way in which we intensify those talks and bring about resolution.

"Can you explain to the House why the Government are so resistant to taking that step?"

Earlier, Tory MP James Cleverly said the move would only reward "intransigence" and urged ministers to "ignore the siren song" to send the Prime Minister to Northern Ireland.

Mr Brokenshire, speaking during an urgent statement in the Commons on the matter, said: "When you look at the issues that are relevant here in relation to the parties coming together in that devolved space, it is about how we support those parties to work together to get a positive outcome.

"I have already spoken directly in relation to that intensification, that inclusive nature, and it is precisely that approach that I will be taking alongside the Irish Government and Charlie Flanagan, the Irish foreign minister, to do precisely that.

"Because it is that absolute intent we have as a Government is to do all that we can to get devolved Government back up on its feet again and we will do our utmost to achieve that - which can be done."

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