Northern Ireland

Stormont talks: Urgent need to restore devolution says Coveney

Simon Coveney Image copyright PA
Image caption Simon Coveney said he would do his utmost to support the parties in reaching an agreement

The start of Brexit negotiations in Brussels underlines the urgent need to restore Northern Ireland power sharing, Ireland's foreign minister has said.

Monday sees the first round-table meeting involving the governments and local parties in negotiations to restore devolution.

Irish Minister Simon Coveney is taking part in the talks for the first time.

The parties have until 29 June to reach agreement and have been warned direct rule could follow if they cannot.

"I will spare no effort to fulfil the [Irish] government's duty as co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement," Mr Coveney said.

"I will do my utmost to support the parties in reaching an agreement which ensures that the integrity of the Good Friday Agreement is fully protected, that all of its institutions function effectively and fairly and that previous agreements are honourably implemented."

He added: "There is 10 days within the life-time of the current assembly to secure the necessary agreement.

"If we needed any reminder of the urgency of having power-sharing institutions in Stormont, it is the coincidence of the Brexit negotiations beginning in Brussels today."

Image caption Michelle O'Neill surrounded by her Sinn Féin talks team

Speaking at Stormont ahead of the talks, Sinn Féin's northern leader Michelle O'Neill called on Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar "to deliver for all the citizens on the island of Ireland" on Brexit.

"The DUP are on the wrong side of the argument, cosying up to the Tory government, who are disrespecting the mandate of the people here," she said.

Mrs O'Neill said that Sinn Féin wanted to make the institutions work.

Northern Ireland has been without a power-sharing executive since March and without a first and deputy first minister since January.

The institutions collapsed amid a bitter row between the DUP and Sinn Féin about a botched green energy scheme.

The late deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness, stood down, in a move that triggered a snap election.

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