Northern Ireland’s opportunities for inward economic investment will be greatly reduced if the Stormont Assembly does not return, Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy has said.
Mr Murphy was commenting as representatives of Stormont parties held the latest in a series of meetings with the head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service Jayne Brady about preparations for a restored executive.
The talks on Thursday focused on a potential programme for government for any incoming executive.
The Stormont Assembly has been effectively collapsed for over a year while the DUP refuses to take part until its concerns over post-Brexit trading arrangements are addressed.
Other parties have urged the DUP to return to Stormont as the region is beset by significant challenges, including around finances and public services.
Senior civil servants are continuing to run government departments in the absence of elected ministers.
Mr Murphy referenced a major trade summit which is scheduled to take place in Northern Ireland this autumn.
He said: “The acid test for these discussions and all of the questions in and around what we are going to be doing is is an executive going to be formed and we haven’t heard that as yet from the DUP.
“While there may be opportunities on the horizon they will be greatly reduced if people travel here to discuss potential economic opportunities and find there is no-one here to discuss these issues with.
“Our press is to get an executive up and formed as quickly as possible, to get a decision from the DUP in terms of their own internal wranglings and get ourselves and the other parties back to work.”
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said work between local parties on planning for a restoration of the Assembly would continue.
He said: “We continue to discuss a plan on the key priorities that may form the basis of a programme for government if and when the executive is restored. That work will continue.
“We are looking at the funding priorities as well as the policy priorities for the people of Northern Ireland.
“It is very important work in which we are fully engaged.”
Alliance Party leader Naomi Long said it had been a “constructive but sobering” meeting.
She said: “The one thing that is absent from the discussion and absent from the information we are provided with is a date for the restoration (of the executive).
“Until we have that certainty in terms of the future of the executive then it is very difficult for us to make any progress on the issues that are really affecting the people of Northern Ireland.
“I would appeal again to those who are blocking the formation of the executive to move into the executive as quickly as possible before further harm is done.
“I would also appeal to the two governments to take their responsibilities seriously when it comes to ensuring that executive is sustainable in the long term.”
Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie said the meeting took place “under a fiscal cloud”.
He said: “We focused an awful lot on a programme for government which was interesting.
“Also, how we create a more stable executive, if we get an executive up and running and how we improve the output from that executive and the collective nature of that executive.
“It was a hefty meeting to talk about those things, all of that under a fiscal cloud where we have still got pressures of over £1 billion which we haven’t resolved how we are going to deal with that.”