Northern Ireland

'Little evidence of progress' at Stormont - Alliance Party

Naomi Long
Image caption Naomi Long said the big two parties appear to be trying to reach agreement

The ongoing talks aimed at restoring power-sharing at Stormont are "frustratingly slow", the Alliance Party leader Naomi Long has said.

Mrs Long said that "there is very little evidence of any tangible progress" and that Tuesday 27 June is the "real deadline" for the talks.

Sinn Féin said on Thursday that time is "fast running out" for the negotiations to be successful.

The parties have officially until 29 June to reach agreement.

The deadline was set by Secretary of State James Brokenshire.

The parties have been warned that if they cannot reach agreement, direct rule could follow.

"Buckling down"

However, Mrs Long said that the two largest parties, the DUP and Sinn Féin, "appear to finally be buckling down to try and close the gaps between them".

"It needs to be remembered if they run the clock out on those issues, there will be no time left to deal with the issues other parties have raised as part of this process.

"If the DUP and Sinn Féin truly want a multi-party executive, they need to deal with all the issues on the table thoroughly and treat all parties in the process equally," she added.

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.

Meanwhile, Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has said it is possible a deal will be made before the deadline, but that it will require "courage and accommodation".

He also said there is no possibility of the Thursday deadline being pushed back.

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