Monday 23 July 2018

Varadkar and May hopeful of deal to end Stormont stalemate

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (left) and Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney speaking outside Stormont House in Belfast. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (left) and Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney speaking outside Stormont House in Belfast. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Lesley-Anne McKeown

Both the Taoiseach and British Prime Minister have indicated they are hopeful of a deal to end a 400-day stalemate in Stormont.

The leaders attended the latest round of talks aimed at restoring power-sharing in Northern Ireland.

Speaking as the talks concluded without a deal being reached Theresa May said "while differences remain, I think there is the basis of an agreement here" and hoped that an executive could be "up and running very soon".

"I have urged (the parties) to make one final push for the sake of the people of Northern Ireland," May told reporters. "It should be possible to see an executive up and running in Northern Ireland very soon."

Sinn Fein's president Mary Lou McDonald (left) and Sinn Fein's vice president Michelle O'Neill, speaking to the media at Stormont Parliament buildings as Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar are holding crunch talks at Stormont House. Photo credit: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Sinn Fein's president Mary Lou McDonald (left) and Sinn Fein's vice president Michelle O'Neill, speaking to the media at Stormont Parliament buildings as Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar are holding crunch talks at Stormont House. Photo credit: Niall Carson/PA Wire

"I have had full and frank conversations with the five parties. I've also met with the Taoiseach.

"And while some differences remain I believe that it is possible to see the basis of an agreement here. There is the basis of an agreement and it should be possible to see an Executive up and running in Northern Ireland very soon," she said.

"The DUP and Sinn Fein have been working very hard to close the remaining gaps. But I would also like to recognise the contribution of other parties here in Northern Ireland too.

"What I am clear about is that we are all fully committed to doing everything we can to support this process – and as far as Westminster is concerned we stand ready to  legislate  for the re-establishment of an Executive as soon as possible after an agreement."

Sinn Fein's president Mary Lou McDonald (left) and Sinn Fein's vice president Michelle O'Neill, speaking to the media at Stormont Parliament buildings. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Sinn Fein's president Mary Lou McDonald (left) and Sinn Fein's vice president Michelle O'Neill, speaking to the media at Stormont Parliament buildings. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Meanwhile, Leo Varadkar echoed her sentiment and said he is "very hopeful" of a powersharing agreement being reached this week.

DUP leader Arlene Foster said good progress had been made in the talks.

She said: "Good progress has been made and we will continue to work towards more progress. It is about finding an accommodation that recognises the need to respect all languages and all cultures in Northern Ireland and not allow one to dominate over another."

She later added: "There isn't a deal yet but there is very good progress and we will keep at it and continue to work on that progress."

The DUP leader said her party wanted to achieve a deal which was "good for everyone" and that was "sustainable" in the future.

She described the tone of the talks as "very good".

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald said: "We believe we are close to an agreement."

Mrs Foster said: "The tone was very good. We continue to have those conversations and we will continue to have conversations with Sinn Fein around the outstanding matters and indeed with our own government as well."

The party leader added: "If the public are frustrated at the pace of progress, we all are as well."

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said: "We believe that we are close to an agreement which, certainly, we can put to our grassroots and to the community as a whole."

She acknowledged "we are not exactly there just yet" but "there is nothing insurmountable if there is the political will to reach an agreement".

There were no direct talks between Sinn Fein and the DUP, she said.

"Today we met with both governments, we did not have the opportunity to meet with the DUP," she said.

"Clearly we need to meet, clearly we need to resolve the outstanding issues."

Press Association

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