N. Ireland Politics

Karen Bradley says artificial deadline won't help Stormont talks

Karen Bradley
Image caption Karen Bradley said political parties needed to take 'brave decisions'

The Northern Ireland secretary has said she does not believe putting an "artificial deadline" on Stormont talks will help lead to a breakthrough.

Negotiations between the political parties are entering a ninth week.

There is speculation that they could be paused over the summer.

Karen Bradley told BBC News NI on Monday that "difficult issues" remain, which will require the parties to take brave decisions.

The latest round of power-sharing talks began on 7 May, with Mrs Bradley and Tánaiste (Irish deputy prime minister) Simon Coveney saying there would be a "short window of opportunity" to reach a deal.

Northern Ireland has been without devolution since January 2017 when Sinn Féin collapsed the coalition government in protest at the DUP's handling of a green energy scandal.

Since then, several rounds of talks aimed at restoring the Northern Ireland Assembly have failed, with the two parties unable to find a compromise on a number of outstanding issues including Irish language rights and the legalisation of same-sex marriage.

Mrs Bradley did not give details on Monday about what progress had been achieved or if the talks could be suspended later this week.

She is chairing a round-table discussion with Mr Coveney at Stormont on Monday afternoon.

"While we've got a chance of delivering this, we need to give it that time and space to do it. I don't think putting artificial deadlines on these things helps," she said.

"The fact is the politicians are there, there's a will around the table and there's a will in the room."

Last month, Theresa May resigned as Conservative leader over the Brexit deadlock.

It is thought Mrs Bradley could be replaced as Northern Ireland secretary when a new prime minister takes office.

She did not comment on that speculation.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Northern Ireland has been without a devolved power-sharing government for more than two and a half years

Mrs Bradley would not be drawn on who she is backing in the Conservative leadership race.

"The important thing for me is that there are no distractions to restore the executive," she said.

"My view is that we need to focus on that today."

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