Secretary of State James Brokenshire calls for urgent talks

SECRETARY of State James Brokenshire has called for the start of urgent talks among the parties in an effort to restore the Stormont Executive.

Sinn Fein seen a surge in its support over the ‘cash-for-ash’ scandal.

It claimed 27 seats in the Assembly under new leader Michelle O’Neill.

But the DUP only secured 28 seats under the new Assembly structure of 90 seats across 18 constituencies.

DUP leader Arlene Foster has remained out of sight after her party’s fortunes dipped.

She point blanked refused to be interviewed by the BBC after she secured her seat in Fermanagh on Friday night.

Party colleagues Lord Morrow, Trevor Clarke, Nelson McCausland and Emma Pengelly all lost their seats.

Foster is now facing pressure to step down as leader.

Sinn Fein’s Northern leader Michelle O’Neill has made it clear her party will not go back into talks with her in charge.

In a statement today, James Brokenshire said: “Now that Assembly members have been elected, there is a limited window in which the Assembly and Executive can be restored.

“Urgent discussions need to take place to ensure inclusive devolved government resumes. These discussions will need to focus on: the establishment of a partnership Executive and addressing other outstanding issues, including the implementation of past agreements and addressing the legacy of the past.

“The responsibility for forming a new Executive rests with the two parties eligible to nominate a First Minister and deputy First Minister, both to engage with each other and to advance discussions with all eligible parties.

“A new Executive will need to agree a Programme for Government, a budget for 2017-18 and any changes to how the Executive will work. The UK Government will engage with the parties to secure progress.

Michelle O’Neill says she will not negotiate with Arlene Foster while she is DUP leader

“On the wider point of addressing outstanding issues, all parties eligible to nominate NI Executive Ministers will need to be involved.

“The UK Government and the Irish Government will also have roles to play in accordance with the three-stranded approach.

“Discussions will focus on securing implementation on the basis of existing commitments rather than the renegotiation of prior agreements.

“In particular, there is an urgent need to resolve the implementation of the commitments concerning the legacy of the past in the Stormont House Agreement.

“Starting immediately, the UK and Irish Governments will work closely with the parties to secure progress on these issues. These discussions will be confidential.

“Parts of this work are important. Political institutions operating on a basis of partnership, equality and mutual respect are at the heart of the Belfast Agreement,” he added

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