Momentum around push to restore Stormont powersharing, May tells Cabinet

The Prime Minister has told Cabinet colleagues there is a momentum around the new talks process to restore powersharing in Northern Ireland.

But addressing the weekly Downing Street meeting, Theresa May cautioned that the challenges that needed to be overcome before devolution returned should not be underestimated, according to the Prime Minister’s official spokesman.

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley also told Tuesday’s Cabinet gathering that the murder of journalist Lyra McKee in Londonderry had led to a “renewed rejection of violence by the people” of the region, Mrs May’s spokesman added.

“The people of Northern Ireland have also expressed their frustration at the current impasse and their desire to see devolved government restored quickly,” the spokesman said.

And he added: “The Prime Minister said that while momentum exists around the need to commence a talks process, we should not underestimate the challenges facing the Northern Ireland parties.

“Intensive preparations are now taking place between the UK and Irish governments and with Northern Irish parties on the structure and substance of the talks.”

The new talks initiative, which was announced by the two governments last week, will start on May 7.

The ongoing political stalemate has left Northern Ireland without a devolved government for over two years.

Efforts to resurrect the powersharing institutions have been injected with fresh impetus following the death of Ms McKee, 29, at the hands of a dissident republican gunman amid unrest in Londonderry on April 18.

State of the parties in the Northern Ireland assembly
(PA Graphics)

The last Democratic Unionist/Sinn Fein-led powersharing coalition imploded in January 2017 amid a row about a botched renewable energy scheme.

The rift between the erstwhile partners-in-government subsequently widen to take in disputes over the Irish language, same sex marriage and the legacy of the Troubles.

On Tuesday, Mrs May’s spokesman said of the Northern Ireland talks process: “The PM acknowledged that we don’t underestimate the challenges which are facing the parties. Some familiar issues have been discussed publicly in recent days.

“We, along with the Irish Government, are now making preparations for what the structure and the substance of the talks will look like.

“I think the PM and the Northern Ireland Secretary are clear that we don’t underestimate the challenges that are involved in this process. At the same time, there is a feeling that there is momentum out there.”

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