Tuesday 20 August 2019

Leo Varadkar and Theresa May identify 'narrow window of opportunity' to restore Northern Ireland Assembly

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Prime Minister Theresa May leave the funeral service of murdered journalist Lyra McKee
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Prime Minister Theresa May leave the funeral service of murdered journalist Lyra McKee
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

THE Irish and British governments say there is now a "genuine but narrow window of opportunity" in which to restore the Northern Ireland Assembly.

In a joint statement tonight, Taoiesach Leo Varadkar and Prime Minister Theresa May claimed progress has been made in the all-party talks that began after the murder of journalist Lyra McKee.

But they also indicated that there hasn't been a major breakthrough that would allow the DUP and Sinn Féin share power at Stormont.

"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," the two leaders said.

"While broad consensus has been reached on some issues, other areas remain to be resolved."

Mr Varadkar and Mrs May, who is due to step down as Conservative Party leader later this week, said they will "continue to monitor progress closely".

They have tasked Tánaiste Simon Coveney and Secretary of State Karen Bradley with providing regular updates.

Their statement concluded: "We believe it is imperative that the parties now move without delay to engaging substantively on the shape of a final agreement."

It is now almost two and a half years since the Assembly collapsed. And despite the threat of Brexit the two main parties – the DUP and Sinn Féin – have refused to work together.

Sinn Féin has refused to back down on its demand for an Irish language act and equality provisions such as same-sex marriage. The DUP steadfastly oppose such moves.

The latest round of talks began in April after the funeral of Lyra McKee, who was murdered by the New IRA heard from a rallying call from a Catholic priest.

Fr Martin McGill said the killing had “struck a chord for everybody on this island when he asked the political leaders to get their act together”.

And he asked: "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 get to this point?”

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