Sense of deja-vu as new Stormont talks process is announced, SDLP leader says.

A sense of deja-vu surrounds the announcement of fresh talks to restore powersharing at Stormont, the leader of the SDLP has said.

Colum Eastwood said while he welcomed the new talks process, it must be different to the process of the last 12 months.

"We will give it (the talks process) a fair wind. But I would not criticise anybody for thinking this was deja-vu and asking the question 'what has actually changed?'" he said.

Robin Swann appointed leader of UUP
Ulster Unionist Party leader Robin Swann (Peter Morrison/PA)

Mr Eastwood added: "We have a very high standard to try to reach to make sure this process is actually successful. This is about trying to find government that can deal with the challenges we face.

"This just can't be the same as we have had for past 12 months because that has been utter failure."

Ulster Unionist Party leader Robin Swann said the talks process needs to be open and transparent.

"This process should not repeat the mistakes of last year, excluding other parties and letting the process drift along.

"It needs to be open and transparent so that all the political parties are aware of just how close, or not, Sinn Fein and the DUP came to agreement last year.

"We need all the cards on the table and we need to see what the DUP and SF have agreed to date and what differences still remain," he added.

Alliance leader Naomi Long said an independent talks facilitator should be appointed.

Alliance Party leadership
Alliance Party leader Naomi Long (Brian Lawless/PA)

"The appointment of an independent facilitator would be another significant step forward and we are disappointed that has not yet happened," she said.

"Alliance first raised this matter before last summer and we were told there was no time for someone to get across the issues which were close to resolution," she added.

"Seven months later, we are no further on and rather than waste further time, a facilitator should be appointed immediately.

"If we are to have a successful talks process with a sustainable deal, an impartial chair will increase that likelihood dramatically."

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