'Window For Success' In Talks Process

Party leaders in Northern Ireland have said the talks aimed at restoring devolved government have reached a critical point.

Negotiations reconvened at Stormont yesterday, Thursday 30 May, facilitated by the British and Irish governments.

Ulster Unionist Leader Robin Swann said there is a limited timeframe within which a fair and balanced agreement can be reached.

Following the talks, he said the mood at the table was a lot better than expected.

"The onus is very firmly on the five parties to work positively to achieve a solution that restores the devolved institutions. The process needs to continue to be inclusive and it also needs to be very focused if it is to succeed. There is a limited timeframe within which a fair and balanced agreement can be reached. I believe that if generosity and respect are shown by all sides, it may be possible to achieve the positive outcome that the people of Northern Ireland want and deserve."

Meanwhile, SDLP Deputy Leader Nichola Mallon said "its time to get down to brass tacks" and find an agreement to get MLAs back to work in the Assembly.
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Speaking from Stormont House, she said: "We are committed to securing a resolution to these negotiations that will restore government in Northern Ireland and allow a reformed Assembly to deal with issue of rights, identity and equality. That's why we've been making bold proposals to break the stalemate – to suspend the operation of the Petition of Concern for the lifetime of this Assembly mandate and deal with those issues in reformed institutions.

"There is a window for success. We have a hospital waiting list crisis, a severe schools funding situation and a welfare cliffedge emergency. Those issues need urgent local political leadership. We will not be found wanting in our efforts to reach a resolution."

Weekly talks with the two governments have been ongoing since 07 May after renewed calls for a return to devolution were issued in the wake of the murder of journalist Lyra McKee. Tanaiste Simon Coveney indicated earlier this week that there is a window to secure an agreement in June.

Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald said its now decision time for the two governments. Speaking after the talks in Belfast, she commented: "Sinn Féin is here to do the business. Today's meeting was very positive. 

"What's required now is a step change in the negotiations. There is a way forward  and we believe the outstanding issues can be resolved. 

"It is decision time for the two governments and the parties. Leadership and political will is required to have good government, inclusive government, stable government, a government which has room for every citizen."


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