Theresa Villiers: Inter-party talks have made a 'positive start'

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Theresa Villiers
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Theresa Villiers convened the talks to discuss issues such as flags, parades and the past

Secretary of State Theresa Villiers has said that inter-party talks at Stormont have got off to a positive start.

She said that all parties had engaged in the process seriously and that she intends to produce a progress report by the end of November.

The talks were convened to discuss issues such as flags, parades and the past.

Last week, the DUP dismissed claims by Sinn Féin that the party was not engaged in the talks process.

The Democratic Unionist Party stayed away from the opening session of the talks on 16 October, with its party leader, Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson, describing it as a "circus" arranged for the cameras.

because it objected to negotiating with the Irish government about Northern Ireland's internal affairs.

Last week, the party met Ms Villiers, but, so far, has not taken part in round-table talks.

Ms Villiers was speaking on Monday during the Forum for Cities in Transition event at Belfast Metropolitan College.

She said answers for outstanding issues had to come from Northern Ireland's political leaders, but that the UK government had a role in the process.

'Credible talks'

She added: "It is right that there's a place at the table for the Irish government on issues for which they have responsibility and in accordance with the long established three-stranded approach.

"Both the UK and Irish governments have pledged their full support to the new process and we have agreed that report on progress will be prepared no later than 28 November."

Sinn Féin MP Conor Murphy has said that there is "no credible talks process" due to the DUP not attending a meeting or holding discussions with his party on an agenda or timetable.

On Monday, Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly said: "Are we in a credible talks process or not? Up till now, no we're not.

"We need to show people out there that it's credible, which means the DUP have to make it credible.

"They called for the talks, and then they refused to go in the plenaries."