Northern Ireland power-sharing talks to restart after politicians shamed at Lyra McKee funeral

‘The aim of these talks is quickly to re-establish to full operation the democratic institutions of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement,’ says PM

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Friday 26 April 2019 15:37
Fresh talks on restoring power-sharing government at Stormont says Karen Bradley

Theresa May has announced power-sharing talks in Northern Ireland will be rebooted in an attempt to end the two-year political impasse at Stormont.

The move follows politicians being publicly challenged by a priest leading the funeral of the journalist Lyra McKee as to why it had taken the 29-year-old’s murder to force politicians to unite.

In a joint statement with Leo Varadkar, the Irish taoiseach, the prime minister said they had agreed to establish a “new process of political talks” involving all the main parties in Northern Ireland.

“The aim of these talks is quickly to re-establish to full operation the democratic institutions of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement – the NI executive, assembly and North-South Ministerial Council – so that they can effectively serve all of the people for the future,” they said.

More than two years have passed since the Stormont assembly collapsed in Northern Ireland, and multiple rounds of talks aimed at restoring the power-sharing agreement have failed to secure its restoration.

But, Ms May added: “We understand the complexity of the underlying concerns of all parties, and the need for renewed trust, mutual respect, generosity and new thinking to resolve the issues.

“As prime minister and taoiseach, we are determined to work together to ensure this process comes to a successful conclusion. We will review progress at the end of May.”

In reference to the killing the journalist Ms Mckee, Ms May and Mr Varadkar added: “In coming together with other political leaders in St Anne’s Cathedral to pay tribute to Lyra McKee, we gave expression to the clear will and determination of all of the people of these islands to reject violence and to support peace and a better future for everyone in Northern Ireland.

“We also heard the unmistakable message to all political leaders that people across Northern Ireland want to see a new momentum for political progress. We agree that what is now needed is actions and not just words from all of us who are in positions of leadership.”

During the funeral of Ms McKee, Father Martin Magill referred to party leaders standing together, he said: “I am, however, left with a question: 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 a congregation in Belfast that included the Irish premier, Sinn Fein leaders and DUP leader Arlene Foster, Fr Magill also called on politicians to restart talks on the suspended Stormont assembly.

Later on Friday in a joint press conference with the Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney, the Northern Ireland secretary Karen Bradley said it was her "absolute determination" for new talks to succeed and that the Good Friday Agreement must be "upheld and defended".

She added: "These talks offer the chance to move forward to restore the political institutions and deliver for the people of Northern Ireland... we have a narrow window in which genuine progress can be made and we must act now."

Mr Coveney said there was an "urgent need for positive and determined action" because "we are leaving far too much wide open space for other kinds of voices, that don't believe in democracy but that peddle hate and fear".

He added: "I think what every decent-thinking person in Northern Ireland wants now is to see us take that spark of determination that I think we have all felt in the last few days and to see if we can build a momentum from that to do something real and positive."

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