Chance to secure Stormont talks deal “closing”

Posted By: September 05, 2017

Brokenshire says moves to direct rule could be in place next month

John Manley. Irish News. Belfast. Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Secretary of State James Brokenshire has warned that the Stormont deadlock must be broken or the first moves towards direct rule will come as early as next month.

Mr. Brokenshire said the opportunity to secure agreement is rapidly decreasing as financial pressure on Northern Ireland’s public services grows.

It is thought mid-to-late October has been earmarked as the deadline for restoring devolution, otherwise, Westminster legislation will be required to enable Stormont’s ministerless departments to spend money.

Speaking after a day spent meeting the Stormont parties, Mr. Brokenshire  said: “I cannot ignore the growing concern in the wider community here about the impact that the current political impasse is having on the local economy and on the delivery of key public services.”

He said the British government had a duty to “provide political stability and certainty.”

“The window of opportunity to restore devolution and to form an executive is closing rapidly as we move further into the autumn,” Mr. Brokenshire said.

“With pressures on public services already evident – most particularly in the health service – the need for intervention is becoming increasingly clear.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood last night called on his Stormont counterparts to make their bottom lines clear ahead of an expected intensification of efforts to save devolution.

The Foyle MLA said his party would publish its positions in the talks process this week so the public could make up its own mind on who was responsible for the political impasse.

Sinn Féin northern leader Michelle O’Neill also called for intense talks, saying that outstanding issues could be resolved within days if people had the right attitude.

“We have a short timeframe in front of us – this time is critical and must not be wasted,” she said.

Irish foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney will travel north today to meet the five parties before the two governments evaluate their limited options.