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Dublin: 16 °C Wednesday 17 July, 2019
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New phase of power-sharing talks to begin in Northern Ireland

Karen Bradley and Simon Coveney said they “believe that there is a genuine but narrow window of opportunity to reach agreement in the immediate period ahead”.

Image: Sam Boal

FRESH TALKS AIMED at restoring power-sharing in Northern Ireland are to enter a new phase – one which all sides are indicating they hope will lead to a swift conclusion.

After more than two years without a power-sharing agreement in the north, a new round of talks was reopened following the tragic death of Lyra McKee in Derry on 18 April. The talks opened on 26 April and the latest phase has just concluded.

The talks involve the five main Stormont parties, and though they are said to be positive there has of yet been no decisions made on power-sharing.

Plenary meetings are due to take place today.

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald said in a statement issued last night:

“We are now at the end of this phase of the talks. All parties and both governments have shared their positions and all agree on the need to re-establish the power sharing institutions of the Good Friday Agreement.

“The next phase of talks must move from the aspiration to re-establish the institutions to actually reaching an agreement that delivers for all.”

She added:

I believe that progress is possible and necessary. It will be found in implementing our existing agreements, respecting the equality of all and recognising the rights of one section of the community does not diminish the rights of others.
Success must be felt by all in society with all party power-sharing institutions operating to the highest standards and delivering for all without fear or favour.
We have faced greater challenges in the past and with generosity and imagination we have found a way forward.

She said her party Sinn Féin “will enter the next phase of talks dedicated to reaching agreement and a route back to all party power-sharing”.

“Sinn Féin’s negotiating team have engaged fully and will move to the next phase with a determination to resolve the outstanding issues.”

Meanwhile, the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Prime Minister Theresa May issued a statement last night, saying that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Karen Bradley and the Tánaiste Simon Coveney have updated the pair on the talks’ progress.

Both said they welcome “the constructive engagement shown by all parties to date”.

“It is clear to us that the Northern Ireland political parties wish to see the institutions of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement restored, but operating on a more credible and sustainable basis,” said the statement. “While broad consensus has been reached on some issues, other areas remain to be resolved.”

The Secretary of State and Tánaiste believe that there is a genuine but narrow window of opportunity to reach agreement in the immediate period ahead and that it is essential to continue and intensify talks to this end.

May and Varadkar said that they “will continue to monitor this progress closely”.

“We believe it is imperative that the parties now move without delay to engaging substantively on the shape of a final agreement.”

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