Charlie Flanagan: DUP and Sinn Féin can reach a deal in next two weeks

UPDATE 13.50pm: The Foreign Affairs Minister says he believes the DUP and Sinn Féin can reach a deal to govern in the North over the next few weeks.

It follows warnings from Northern Ireland's Secretary of State James Brokenshire that a second election is on the cards if they don't reach agreement.

The DUP and Sinn Féin are locked in talks this week aimed at forming a government.

They have just three weeks to reach a deal, and Minister Charlie Flanagan says it can be done.

"I have seen a willingness to do business," he said.

"I am certainly not underestimating the challenge, there are real and serious obstacles to be surmounted. I believe we can do it within the two week period.

"When Secretary of State Brokenshire speaks about a second election he is merely identifying what the legal position is."

Earlier: Hugely experienced community figures who helped resolve the Ardoyne parading dispute have met James Brokenshire as part of talks to restore powersharing in the North.

Jim Roddy has been at the forefront of successful negotiations with the Apprentice Boys loyal order in Londonderry and last year helped the warring parties in the violent north Belfast impasse reach agreement.

Ardoyne Catholic priest Fr Gary Donegan was another key player in ensuring 2016's march through the Belfast flashpoint passed off peacefully.

A UK Government source close to the talks suggested Northern Ireland Secretary Mr Brokenshire is putting every ounce of effort into reaching an accord between the five main political parties at Stormont during the three-week window before fresh elections must be called.

He met the Making It Work Group for "candid" talks at Stormont on Friday, a day when ministers normally attend to constituency business, in a signal of his desire to do a deal.

The organisation comprises Mr Roddy, Fr Donegan, Ryan Feeney from Queen's University who has a background in community relations with the Gaelic Athletic Association, and Professor Peter McBride.

It is understood the talks were useful and the Government will be meeting the group again before the process ends.

Permission for the contentious loyal order procession past the nationalist Ardoyne in north Belfast was granted after an historic deal between the loyal orders and nationalist residents' group the Crumlin Ardoyne Residents' Association.

It followed years of serious violence.


 

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