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21/04/2017

'Tangible Progress' Being Made In Stormont Talks - Flanagan

The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan, has said that "tangible progress" has been made towards the establishment of a new power-sharing executive in Northern Ireland.

Minister Flanagan was speaking in Belfast following a round of meetings with NI political parties and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire.

Minister Flanagan said: "Over the last six weeks, tangible progress has been made towards the establishment of a new Northern Ireland Executive and on the implementation of outstanding commitments from previous agreements. I commend all of the five parties for their engagement on the various issues.

"When we paused these talks before the Easter break, I felt we were in a reasonable place. Some crucial issues remained to be resolved but there were encouraging signs that parties were willing to make best efforts to achieve such a resolution.
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"The announcement of a General Election has undoubtedly changed the context for these talks and may impact on their prospects for success in the short term. For understandable reasons, it is difficult for parties to contemplate compromises on sensitive issues while, at the same time, preparing to compete in an election.

"I understand that the Bill to be published tomorrow, and introduced in Westminster next week by the Secretary of State, will address the question of the period during which an Executive can be formed within the mandate of the current Assembly. Clearly, the sooner the Executive can be established the better.

"In the meantime, the people of Northern Ireland will continue to need public services and to be concerned about real issues which impact on their lives, such as Brexit. The two year process on Brexit has now commenced. In approaching this issue, the Irish Government is very mindful of the needs of Northern Ireland. Our island of Ireland approach to Brexit has been reflected in the draft Guidelines prepared for the consideration of the European Council on 29 April.

"As the Brexit negotiations begin in earnest, Northern Ireland remains a key priority for the Irish Government and we will continue to work on behalf of the people of the entire island. Our strong preference would be to advance this critical work in effective partnership with a functioning Executive."

(MH/LM)

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