Thursday, 11 July 2019
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
139. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if talks will continue throughout the remainder of July and August 2019, if necessary, to reach agreement in the event of agreement not being reached shortly by the Irish and British Governments and the political parties in Northern Ireland to have the Assembly and Executive restored; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30933/19]
The continuing absence of the power-sharing Executive and Assembly in Northern Ireland and the North South Ministerial Council is of grave concern for the Government as it is for the British Government.
The Government will continue to do everything in its power, in accordance with its responsibilities as a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, to secure the effective operation of all of its institutions.
I have engaged extensively with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland throughout this latest talks process, to encourage the parties to reach an accommodation. That engagement continues and will do so in the coming weeks as we work to secure agreement between the parties.
Last week, the British Government introduced an amendment to UK legislation to extend the period for calling an Assembly election.
This step underlines the seriousness of the absence of the devolved institutions in Northern Ireland, and the urgent requirement for an agreement between the political parties on operating the institutions again.
All five political parties have engaged constructively throughout the talks process that the two Governments convened with the objective of getting the institutions operating again.
Progress has been made by the parties across a range of important issues. However, some key outstanding issues remain and finding final agreement on these issues will require genuine and courageous dialogue between the party leaderships.
The awful murder of Lyra McKee and the outpouring of public feeling that followed demands a serious response at political level. People want to see real progress made. There is no patience for anything except urgent and determined progress, and an openness to new thinking.
Ultimately the challenge is for the parties to find an agreement. This will be difficult, but the two Governments believe that this can, and must, be achieved to get the devolved, power-sharing Assembly and Executive and the NSMC functioning again as quickly as possible.