Meeting with Karen Bradley ‘a complete waste of time’

Northern Secretary had meetings with SDLP, Sinn Féin, UUP and DUP about Stormont

Lord Mayor of Belfast Deirdre Hargey and Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley leaving Belfast City Hall on Thursday following a meeting about the Primark fire. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Lord Mayor of Belfast Deirdre Hargey and Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley leaving Belfast City Hall on Thursday following a meeting about the Primark fire. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

A meeting between the North’s main political parties and Northern Secretary Karen Bradley has been characterised as “a complete waste of time”.

Asked about a lack of a functioning administration at Stormont Ms Bradley said politicians needed “to do the right thing”.

“I think the politicians need to get back into Stormont. I think they need to be making decisions on behalf of the people who elected them,” she said. Northern Ireland has been without a devolved government since January 2017.

Ms Bradley was speaking to reporters before a meeting in Belfast with the DUP, Sinn Féin, SDLP, UUP and Alliance. She said the meeting was about briefing them on the detail of the Northern Ireland Bill before Westminster. The legislation is intended to allow time and space for parties to agree a return to powersharing .

Politicians were given a briefing paper by the Northern Ireland Office with the aim of trying to reach agreement on the structure any future talks would take. The meeting is understood to have lasted about 45 minutes.

Sinn Féin MLA John O’Dowd said he and party colleague Máirtín Ó Muilleoir had attended the meeting “to establish if there was basis for going forward with a rights-based Assembly with accountable governance for all”.

“Unfortunately, that was not the case,” he said.

‘Complete contempt’

“It is quite clear the British government are treating large sections of society with utter and complete contempt.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood characterised the meeting as “a complete waste of time”.

UUP leader Robin Swann said “there wasn’t even consensus on what that meeting was” and characterised is as “a box-ticking exercise”.

Alliance Party leader Naomi Long said relationships between the parties are at “an-all time low”. Ms Long again called for an independent talks facilitator to take charge of any negotiations as she believed the prospect of restoration of the Assembly was “further away” now than when it collapsed, and this new action could provide a breakthrough. The DUP did not speak to reporters.