Northern Ireland

Theresa Villiers: Inter-party talks to begin 'next week'

Theresa Villiers
Image caption Theresa Villiers told BBC Northern Ireland's The View programme there was no plan for an independent or American chairperson for the talks

Talks to try to solve outstanding political issues are expected to begin at Stormont next Thursday, the secretary of state has said.

Theresa Villiers set the date following the announcement a panel would be set up to examine a parade dispute in north Belfast.

Theresa Villiers told BBC's The View programme she would chair most of the talks at Stormont.

Ms Villiers said there was no plan for an independent or American chair.

At the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham in September, the secretary of state said she would convene talks about outstanding political issues in Northern Ireland, including flags, parades and the past.

"The parties have received an indication that I would like to see things start next Thursday but nothing has been finally decided," Ms Villiers told The View.

'No illusions'

"But certainly I would hope we could make a start on this process next week.

"A couple of days a week seems to be an important way forward, but we will be providing more details in due course.

"I think what I have proposed is a common sense way to try and make some progress towards settling the dispute."

The secretary of state said she was "under no illusions" about how difficult the issues will be to fix.

Ms Villiers confirmed the Parades Commission would still be the body to make the determination on the Crumlin Road parade in 2015.

She also said the cost of policing nightly protests at Twaddell/Ardoyne was of "grave concern" and called for the demonstrations to come to an end.

"Finding a resolution in north Belfast is not going to be reached by having a protest each night," she said.

"I think it's time to suspend those protests and let the PSNI focus on community policing across Northern Ireland."

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