Is there anything to be said for another round of Stormont talks?

Posted By: December 09, 2017

John Manley.Irish News. Belfast. Saturday, December 9, 2017

There were calls for fresh Stormont talks last night as a Brexit breakthrough was achieved to prevent a hard Border in Ireland.

The deal includes provision for the Executive and Assembly to forge “distinct arrangements” for north-south and east-west trade.

However, it is almost a year since the Executive collapsed and a series of DUP-Sinn Féin talks have broken up without agreement.

Last night SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said all-party negotiations should begin as soon as possible.

“The agreement reached in Brussels could obviously work far better if we have a functioning Executive and Assembly,” he said.

“That must now be the question posed to every political party in Northern Ireland. Surely this is the basis to resume talks to restore Stormont.”

Earlier Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the agreement between the EU and the UK was “bulletproof” and guaranteed no hard Border.

Sinn Féin northern leader Michelle O’Neill said the agreement was “progress” but called for more clarity.

“[The] report lacks clarity and there are contradictions in the report and particularly in the comfort letter written by British prime minister Theresa May which was directed at one part of the community only,” she said.

“The Irish government needs to be very conscious that the refusal to embrace rights is at the heart of the current difficulties in the political institutions and the collapse of the Executive.

“Sinn Féin will continue to make the case for special status for The North. We will continue to articulate that our society needs to remain in the Customs Union and the Single Market.”

The DUP is adamant that substantive changes were made to the text of the EU-UK agreement after the party scuppered the original deal on Monday.