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Coveney urges all sides in Stormont talks to show generosity

The parties have until a January 13 deadline to strike a deal to revive devolution.

Image: Niall Carson via PA

TÁNAISTE SIMON COVENEY has urged Stormont’s parties to show leadership and generosity when talks to restore powersharing resume.

Coveney said the new year offered a chance for a new beginning and urged all sides not to disappoint the public again.

Negotiations formally resume on tomorrow after a pause for the festive period.

Coveney and Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith were in Belfast today for pre-talks discussions ahead of the resumption of exchanges with the political parties tomorrow morning.

The parties have until a January 13 deadline to strike a deal to revive devolution.

On that date, legislation to give civil servants additional powers to run Northern Ireland’s public services expires and Smith will assume a legal obligation to call a snap Assembly election.

On the journey up to Belfast ahead of the new round of talks, Coveney reflected on the importance of the coming fortnight.

He tweeted: “2020 can be a new beginning for politics in NI with leadership & generosity from all sides – we’ve got less than 2 weeks – let’s not disappoint again! NEW YEAR, NEW BEGINNING!”

In a subsequent New Year’s Day video posted by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar outlining his government’s priorities for 2020, Coveney added: “We are determined to work with all of the parties in Northern Ireland to get the devolved government back up and running again, to get the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement functioning again, to bring communities together and to ensure that Northern Ireland can make decisions for itself.”

The latest push to restore powersharing broke up the week before Christmas, with UK and Irish governments singling out the DUP as the party standing in the way of a deal.

The party rejected the claims, insisting it would not be “bounced” into a “quick fix” that falls apart when tested.

Devolution can only be restored once the DUP and Sinn Féin agree terms to re-enter a mandatory coalition executive in Belfast.

The other three main parties – the SDLP, Ulster Unionists and Alliance – are also involved in the talks process convened by the UK and Irish governments.

While they could take positions in any new executive, their sign-off on a deal is not essential and a government could be formed in their absence, with those parties having the option of going into opposition.

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