Monday 19 March 2018

Stormont talks resume amid fresh optimism

Arlene Foster. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Arlene Foster. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

David Young

A first round-table meeting of Stormont leaders since the implosion of power sharing was a constructive exchange, Democratic Unionist leader Arlene Foster has said.

Plenary discussions between the five main leaders did not happen during last month's ill-fated negotiations, primarily due to Sinn Féin resistance to Secretary of State James Brokenshire taking the chair.

The round table in Stormont Castle was chaired by the head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service Malcolm McKibbin.

"We had a good constructive meeting of the five party leaders and we are going to build on that and try to get the government up and running as soon as possible," former first minister Mrs Foster said.

She welcomed the fact the talks were "more structured" than March's failed discussions and signalled a deal to save power sharing was possible.

"We don't believe it is a matter of time, it's whether there is a willingness there to deal with the issues and to get the government formed again," she said.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the all-leaders meeting had been a step in the right direction. "It's critical that all parties are at the table if we're to create the conditions for forming an inclusive power sharing Executive," he said.

"But these talks have to go beyond the mere symbolism of respect. Historic handshakes just don't cut it anymore. We need to deliver a more accountable, more respectful form of government."

Irish Independent

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