Northern Ireland

Theresa May urges NI politicians to 'come together'

Theresa May at the Balmoral Show in Lisburn Image copyright PA
Image caption Theresa May stopped and posed for selfies and chatted to people during her 25-minute visit to the agricultural show

Northern Ireland politicians must "come together" to form an agreement over a return to power-sharing, Prime Minister Theresa May has said.

She said she had been "personally engaged" in the efforts to restore devolution.

Mrs May was speaking while on a brief visit to Northern Ireland at the Balmoral Show in County Antrim on Saturday.

She is visiting all parts of the UK before next month's general election.

In April, a new deadline of 29 June was set for Northern Ireland politicians to restore a power-sharing executive following its collapse in January.

It allows for more talks between Stormont's political parties and the British and Irish governments after the general election on 8 June.

The prime minister was asked about criticism that she had not been involved enough in resolving the deadlock, but she said she had been in contact with Sinn Féin's northern leader Michelle O'Neill and Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster in the run up to Easter.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The prime minister and Secretary of State James Brokenshire ran into DUP leader Arlene Foster and her son
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mrs May took time to chat to visitors and meet some of the animals at the agricultural show
Image copyright EPA
Image caption She attracted crowds as she went around the show but this baby was a bit reluctant to shake her hand

The prime minister said it was important the parties "come together and come to an agreement that can enable that devolved administration to be re-established".

"After the general election, there will be several weeks until the end of the June for those parties to come together and see a resolution," she added.

"We all want to see devolved administration restored in Northern Ireland."

'Fair and proportionate'

While at Balmoral, Mrs May was asked a number of questions by the assembled media.

She insisted Friday's cyber-attack, which disrupted NHS organisations in England and Scotland, had not just affected the UK and Europol had described it as "unprecedented".

Mrs May said the government had put £2bn into its cyber security strategy and set up the National Cyber Security Centre, which has been advising organisations in the public sector like the NHS.

She was also asked about the potential prosecutions of soldiers over their involvement in Bloody Sunday.

She said prosecutors in such cases would "make those decisions independently".

Legacy issues from the Troubles had to be dealt with in a "fair and proportionate way", she added.

'Goodwill'

The prime minister was also asked how the border situation in Ireland would be resolved post-Brexit.

Mrs May reiterated that she wanted "no return to the borders of the past and no hard border". and there was "goodwill on all sides" to resolve the issues.

"Brexit is an opportunity for the UK but of course we have got to make sure we resolve the issue of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland," she added.

The prime minister was accompanied on her visit by the Secretary of State James Brokenshire and four of the Conservative Party's seven candidates standing in Northern Ireland.

The Conservatives received about 1% of the vote in Northern Ireland in the last general election.

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