Political talks plan for Northern Ireland expected

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StormontImage copyright
Pacemaker

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Stormont has been without a devolved government since January 2017

It is understood the British and Irish governments are planning to set up fresh talks to restore power-sharing in Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley and Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney are likely to make an announcement on Friday.

The plan would see new talks taking place after the council elections in Northern Ireland on 2 May.

It follows the murder of journalist Lyra McKee in Londonderry last week.

Ms McKee, 29, was shot last Thursday while observing rioting in Derry, and hundreds of mourners attended her funeral on Wednesday.

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AFP/Jess Lowe

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Lyra McKee was shot dead last week

Prime Minister Theresa May, President of Ireland Michael D Higgins, Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar and other politicians were among the congregation at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast.

By Gareth Gordon, BBC News NI

Secretary of State Karen Bradley had already said she planned to hold talks about Stormont after the local government elections next Thursday.

But several parties wrote urging her to convene discussions urgently in the wake of the murder of journalist Lyra McKee.

It is understood there were intensive discussions in Belfast after Wednesday’s funeral which was attended by leading politicians from Northern Ireland, the Republic and Westminster.

The Secretary of State and the Tánaiste are expected to make an announcement in Belfast on Friday afternoon.

But convening talks is one thing.

Concluding them successfully with many outstanding issues between the DUP and Sinn Féin, not to mention, Brexit is another.

Priest Fr Martin Magill received a standing ovation when he asked why it had taken her death to unite political parties.

Ms McKee’s murder has prompted calls for Stormont’s politicians to resolve their differences, as Northern Ireland has been without a functioning devolved government since January 2017.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media caption“Why in God’s name does it take the death of a 29-year-old woman with her whole life in front of her to get to this point?”

Mrs Bradley had previously said she intends to hold discussions with Stormont’s party leaders this week in a bid to restore power-sharing.

A Northern Ireland Office spokesperson said the secretary of state’s “priority remains restoring devolution at the earliest opportunity”.

DUP leader Arlene Foster, who held talks with Mrs Bradley and Mr Coveney on Wednesday, said she wanted to see the government “take steps” to ensure talks commence.

She added that the DUP wanted to see the Northern Ireland Assembly restored immediately, alongside a time-limited process dealing with outstanding issues.

The DUP suggested this as a way of breaking the deadlock back in September 2017, but at the time it was rejected by Sinn Féin.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said her party was “ready to play our full part in a serious and meaningful talks process which removes obstacles to power-sharing, delivers rights and restores the assembly”.

“Sinn Féin wants to see the full restoration of the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement,” she added.



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