Lyra McKee murder: Parties call for talks to resume

Image source, Pacemaker
Image caption,
Colum Eastwood, Naomi Long, Mary Lou McDonald and Arlene Foster were among political leaders at a vigil in Derry

There have been calls for fresh talks to revive devolution in Northern Ireland following the murder of journalist Lyra McKee.

The leaders of the SDLP, Ulster Unionists and Alliance Party have all said they have written to the government requesting new talks.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has also written to the leaders of the DUP, Sinn Féin, UUP and Alliance.

He has called for the talks to be convened this week.

Northern Ireland has been without a government since January 2017, when the governing parties - the DUP and Sinn Féin - split in a bitter row.

Since then, the two parties have remained far apart over a number of issues.

Image caption,
Colum Eastwood has called for fresh talks to revive Stormont to begin this week

Several rounds of talks to restore government at Stormont have failed.

Mr Eastwood said there was an "unmistakeable public desire" that the murder of Ms McKee - shot dead by dissident republicans during rioting in Londonderry on Thursday night - should mark a turning point for the political process.

"On the streets of Creggan, in Derry and across Ireland a clear and resolute message has been sent to Lyra's killers and to all of those still wedded to the futility of violence," he said.

"They are the enemies of all of us on this island and enemies of the shared future we have all chosen to build."

Mr Eastwood said a message had also been sent to "all of use tasked with political leadership".

He added: "Resolve your differences, end the division and get back to work."

'Fully supportive'

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann said he was "fully supportive" of Mr Eastwood's call.

"We can't allow either local government or European election campaigns to stall the process any further and any party who wishes to exclude themselves shouldn't be allowed to hold the rest of us back," he said.

Image source, Pacemaker
Image caption,
Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann said he fully supported the call for talks

Alliance leader Naomi Long also tweeted her support for the talks call.

She said she had also written to Secretary of State Karen Bradley and Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney asking for talks to be restarted urgently.

"Leaders standing united against violence matters, but we have to also unite to offer hope and a way forward that is better," she said.

A DUP spokesman said the party would "restore devolution tomorrow without preconditions".

"Four of the five main parties in Northern Ireland share our position. Sinn Féin alone stands as the barrier to a devolved government," the party said.

"In August of 2017 Mrs Foster offered Sinn Féin a time limited process where we would restore the assembly in parallel with a talks process to deal with issues such as the Irish language. The offer still stands."

Speaking at an Easter commemoration in Belfast on Sunday, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald TD said that the current political stalemate could not continue.

"There is an urgent need for the convening of the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference," she said.

"In the absence of the power-sharing institutions, the alternative is not direct rule but a new British Irish partnership - a joint authority - to implement the agreements and safeguard rights."

She said she would like to see a "short, focused set of talks at that point".

In a statement, a government spokesperson said: "The government's first priority is the restoration of the devolved institutions at Stormont.

"We will be maintaining and building contact with the political parties over the coming days and weeks as we continue in our efforts to get back round the table."