Friday 20 September 2019

'Narrow window' to re-establish powersharing, says Northern Ireland secretary

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley during a press conference at Stormont. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley during a press conference at Stormont. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Elizabeth Arnold and George Ryan

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley has insisted there is a "narrow window in which genuine progress" can be made to re-establish devolved powersharing.

The Conservative frontbencher told MPs in Westminster "we must act now" as she outlined her hopes for the forthcoming talks, which have been confirmed by the Irish and British governments following the murder of journalist Lyra McKee.

Giving a statement in the Commons, Ms Bradley said: "No Government can impose an agreement from the outside.

"We need Northern Ireland's political leadership to do everything they can to ensure we emerge with an agreement to restore the executive and build a better future for the people of Northern Ireland.

"Both and the UK and Irish governments have been clear that we will do everything in our power to make these talks a success, but we cannot do it alone."

She described Ms McKee's funeral as an "incredibly emotional and touching event", adding that "all of us heard a clear message that day".

Ms Bradley said: "No more violence, no more division and no more delay.

"Northern Ireland's political leaders must come together now and must work together to stand firm against those who oppose peace and the political process, and work to build a genuinely shared future for all the people of Northern Ireland.

"Lyra symbolised the new Northern Ireland and her tragic death cannot be in vain."

Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Tony Lloyd said Labour was fully behind efforts to get the Northern Ireland Assembly back up and running but said the British Prime Minister has not been as engaged in the process as she needed to be.

He added: "Cynics to me in Northern Ireland say that Downing Street's main interest has been the 10 votes of the DUP members in this House, and that sadly prejudices the way that the Secretary of State's own efforts are seen and that has got to change, because the two governments have got to be seen as both independent and impartial."

Ms Bradley did not address Mr Lloyd's concerns about the Prime Minister, but thanked him for his support of renewing dialogue between the parties in Northern Ireland.

She added: "I've always said that I wanted to restart talks, but I was realistic that it had to wait until after the local elections.

"I'm sad that it took such a tragedy to show the political leaders standing together but I am hopeful and optimistic that we can build on that and the time we have ahead of us after the local elections before we move into the next part of the year when excuses can be used for not having talks.

"We need to find no more excuses, the time has come for talks and we need them to start."

DUP MP Jim Shannon (Strangford) said "the time has passed for talking shops" and politicians must get back to Stormont to take decisions.

He added: "The Northern Ireland Assembly is the only mechanism for getting Northern Ireland back on its feet. No more deadlines, instead getting business done. And that can only be done by returning to Stormont those elected representatives who want to deliver what our people need: legislative change."

Ms Bradley said she agreed the time has come for politicians to get back to Stormont and make the decisions that "people are crying out to be taken".

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