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Fresh talks on the horizon for Northern Ireland legacy issues

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said that he believes “it is now time” for the talks to begin.

NEW INTER-PARTY TALKS on Northern Ireland legacy issues look set to take place in the coming weeks.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan, currently in New York, said that he believes “it is now time” for the talks to begin.

This was echoed by the Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers, the BBC reports.

Speaking at a Conservative Party conference, she said that the United Kingdom now had the chance to play a more direct role in these discussions.

Villiers warned that “disputes over flags, parades and the past are consuming ever increasing amounts of time and resources”.

Flanagan said he will remain in close contact with Villers and the leaders of the Northern Ireland parties in the coming weeks.

“I am strongly of the view that All Party Talks involving the two Governments are required to overcome the current political impasse within the Northern Ireland Executive – including on the legacy issues of parades, flags and identity and dealing with the past,” Flanagan said.

The Irish Government wishes to see the Institutions of the Good Friday Agreement not only function but flourish to the benefit of all.

Flanagan will travel to Washington DC tomorrow to meet with US Vice President, Joe Biden, and Secretary of State, John Kerry, to stress the need for continued US support of the peace process.

In a statement this evening, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams welcomed the call for new talks, and said that “the American administration can play a constructive and meaningful role in shaping and supporting the talks’ process”.

Adams said:

Given the undermining of the institutions, the refusal to engage in talks and the breaches of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) and other agreements by sections of political unionism and the British government, Sinn Féin has consistently called on both governments to live up to their role as co-equal guarantors of these agreements.

Stormont has been divided on the issue of welfare reform in recent weeks. Villiers today urged the nationalist parties to accept the changes, and said that a separate system in Northern Ireland would be expensive, the BBC reports.

Read: DUP war of words as Peter Robinson forced to deny he’s leaving >

More: How important was a ‘No’ vote in the Scottish referendum to Northern Irish unionists? >

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