Northern Ireland news

Theresa May spoke to north's political leaders to secure return of devolved government at Stormont

Prime minister Theresa May
Rebecca Black

THERESA May has spoken to political leaders in Northern Ireland as efforts continue to secure the return of devolved government at Stormont.

The powersharing institutions have been collapsed since January 2017 following a breakdown in relations between leading parties the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Féin.

A fresh round of talks started last week with what was described as a "constructive" meeting of the parties.

On Monday the prime minister spoke to Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald, vice president Michelle O'Neill, Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann and Alliance leader Naomi Long and was due to speak to SDLP leader Colum Eastwood.

Downing Street said Mrs May had previously spoken to the DUP's Arlene Foster.

The prime minister's official spokesman said: "The PM is very keen to see progress being made in the talks and the UK government, working with the Irish government, is doing everything in its power to make the talks a success."

Mary Lou McDonald said that during her conversation with Mrs May she emphasised her determination to resolve "outstanding issues".

She wrote on twitter after her conversation with the prime minister that "a deal is possible, with equality at its core".

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann urged Mrs May to work to protect the Bombardier plant in Belfast during his conversation with her.

UUP European election candidate Danny Kennedy said: "I'm very pleased my party leader raised this issue directly with the prime minister in his telephone conversation today.

"The prime minister was able to inform Robin that the business secretary Greg Clark would provide an update.

"Ideally this would have been done by a locally accountable minister. However given the ongoing Stormont stalemate, I am pleased that Greg Clark and his department are taking a lead on this.

"However, we need to keep attention focused on getting the best result for the Northern Ireland workforce."

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