Northern Ireland

Stormont talks: Simon Coveney says 'mood music' best in years

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Media caption'It'll be a pretty intense this week'

The "mood music" in NI's political talks is better than at any time in the last two years, Tánaiste (Irish deputy prime minister) Simon Coveney has said.

Talks aimed at restoring the power-sharing executive intensified last week and are continuing this week.

Northern Ireland has been without a devolved government for more than two and a half years.

Mr Coveney said there are "three or four key areas where we don't have agreed compromise right now".

Talking to Ireland's Newstalk radio programme, he added: "That is what the next two weeks will be about.

"They're some of the issues that prevented agreement 18 months ago and are still preventing agreement.

"Having said that, I think the mood music is better now than we've had at any time in the last two years."

What are the main sticking points in the NI talks?

Mr Coveney admitted that it would not be easy to get agreement on some of the issues.

"My role and the role of the British government will be to work with political leaders in Northern Ireland to try to find a way to get compromise in these key sensitive areas where there are no winners so everybody can move forward together," he said.

"That's going to be difficult, it's going to be fractious I suspect.

"But I think we can do it and I think people need to remember what this is all about, which is trying to give political leadership in Northern Ireland which is very exposed and very vulnerable in the context of Brexit debates."

Northern Ireland's devolved government collapsed after a bitter split in the power-sharing coalition led by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Féin.

The latest effort to restore devolution began on 7 May, shortly after the killing of journalist Lyra McKee.

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