SDLP calls for immediate talks to restore NI powersharing

Murder of journalist Lyra McKee should be a turning point, says Colum Eastwood

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood speaks at a rally for journalist and author Lyra McKee on Friday, near the scene of her shooting in Derry.   Photograph:  Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood speaks at a rally for journalist and author Lyra McKee on Friday, near the scene of her shooting in Derry. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

 

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has called on the British and Irish governments to immediately convene talks to restore the devolved administration at Stormont in the wake of the murder of Lyra McKee.

Mr Eastwood has written to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and British prime minister Theresa May saying there was “an unmistakable public desire that the tragic and terrible loss of Lyra McKee marks a turning point for our peace and political process”.

He also wrote to the leaders of the DUP, Sinn Féin, the Ulster Unionist Party and Alliance calling for talks to restore the powersharing institutions.

“On the streets of Creggan, in Derry and across Ireland a clear and resolute message has been sent to Lyra’s killers and to all of those still wedded to the futility of violence. They are the enemies of all of us on this island and enemies of the shared future we have all chosen to build,” he said in the letter.

“There was however another equally strong message in the aftermath of last week’s murder. It was a simple and direct message to all of us tasked with political leadership – resolve your differences, end the division and get back to work,” added Mr Eastwood.

Vigil

DUP leader Arlene Foster and her Sinn Féin counterpart, Mary Lou McDonald, together attended a vigil on the streets of the Creggan in the hours after Ms McKee’s death. They have not held political talks for months amid deep differences surrounding issues such as the place of the Irish language and the ban on same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

The SDLP leader said that 21 years after the Belfast Agreement politicians “have been far too casual with our peace and our politics”.

“We have too easily forgotten that failure in our politics always results in danger in our streets. We have been far too ready to disagree with one another and not ready enough to value and build upon the peace we inherited,” he said.

“As political leaders, we are responsible for the context of political division which has let all of our people down. We can’t allow it to go on,” he added.

“If this is to be a turning point, then it is vital that we listen to the public demand to return devolution and powersharing,” said Mr Eastwood.

Missing

He said what was missing was the “political courage and will to get the deal done”.

A British government spokesman said London’s “first priority is the restoration of the devolved institutions at Stormont”.

“We will be maintaining and building contact with the political parties over the coming days and weeks as we continue in our efforts to get back round the table,” he said.