Stormont powersharing restoration talks making progress, says Heaton-Harris

Stormont Powersharing Restoration Talks Making Progress, Says Heaton-Harris
Britain's Northern Ireland secretary has been meeting political leaders over the Stormont stalemate. Photo: PA Images
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Jonathan McCambridge PA

Progress is being made which could lead to the restoration of the Stormont powersharing institutions, Britain's Northern Ireland secretary Chris Heaton-Harris has insisted.

Mr Heaton-Harris said while he still required more clarity on demands from the DUP, he believed that legislation could be brought forward to meet the party’s concerns over post-Brexit trading arrangements.


He added he was determined to provide reassurances to the unionist community that the British government regards Northern Ireland as an integral part of the UK.

Earlier, Mr Heaton-Harris concluded his latest round of talks with party leaders over the Stormont stalemate at Hillsborough Castle.

The Assembly has been in flux for more than a year amid DUP protest action over the Northern Ireland Protocol.



The Windsor Framework was agreed by the EU and UK earlier this year as a way to reduce red tape on trade between Britain and Northern Ireland created by the protocol.

But the DUP has insisted it will not return to Stormont until the British government provides further legislative assurances around Northern Ireland’s place within the UK internal market.


Mr Heaton-Harris said: “We are making good progress. More work is being done because there are some questions that the DUP want answered and there is also some clarification (needed) on what their actual ask is.

“We are working to do that, when we get to the culmination of that work I would like to think that will be the place where Stormont can come back.”

He added: “Legislation could be one of the answers to this, and we did talk (with the DUP) about what we could do in the legislative space.

“One of the things that Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has been talking about is the unfettered access of Northern Ireland produced goods into the GB market.


“If legislation is part of the answer I’d like to think we’d do it.”

Mr Heaton-Harris said the negotiations with the DUP were not about money and there was no prospect of renegotiating the Windsor Framework.

He said: “We are talking about that very important piece for unionism which is giving them the confidence that Northern Ireland is, what I think it is, an integral and strong part of the United Kingdom and will be so until the people of Northern Ireland choose otherwise.”


He added: “Things are moving forward, that is what I can assure people on.

“We are getting to a place where, I think, the clarity that will be required to give the DUP the clarity that they require to say yes, they want to go back into Stormont.

“I want to get this done, I believe we can get this done, and I think it is important to get done.

“I understand the ask (from the DUP) and I want to make sure I answer it completely and properly.”

However, following her meeting with Mr Heaton-Harris, Sinn Féin vice-president Michelle O’Neill said the ongoing Stormont stalemate is “totally unsustainable”.

Ms O’Neill said the British and Irish governments had to do more to bring Stormont back.

She said: “We have just had our meeting with the Secretary of State and we have made it very clear to him that the current position is totally unsustainable, this vacuum isn’t good enough, all it is serving is to punish the public.”

Ms O’Neill added: “Whilst people within the DUP take themselves off on summer holidays, workers and families are left struggling and worrying about how they are going to deal with the cost-of-living issues.

“We have impressed upon the Secretary of State that both himself, the British government and the Irish Government must do more; this position just isn’t tenable.”

Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie and deputy Robbie Butler
Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie and deputy Robbie Butler also attended the talks (Jonathan McCambridge/PA)

UUP leader Doug Beattie said he maintained that government would be operational before the end of the year.

“I made an assessment that we would have Stormont up and running by the autumn, I have not changed that assessment that we will have Stormont up and running by the autumn,” he said.

“But I’m also a realist and I realise that the timings are getting tight.”

Mr Heaton-Harris met earlier this week with the DUP, Alliance Party and the SDLP in London.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said after his meeting on Wednesday the “ball is in the Government’s court” with regards to action which would see the restoration of the Stormont powersharing arrangements.

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