North talks: Brokenshire says common ground between parties

Weekend talks expected ahead of Monday deadline to appoint First and Deputy First Minister

DUP leader Arlene Foster (below right) and Sinn Féin’s leader in Northern Ireland Michelle O’Neill shake hands at the funeral of Martin McGuinness on Thursday. Photograph: Darran Marshall/BBC

DUP leader Arlene Foster (below right) and Sinn Féin’s leader in Northern Ireland Michelle O’Neill shake hands at the funeral of Martin McGuinness on Thursday. Photograph: Darran Marshall/BBC

 

Common ground exists between the Stormont parties as the deadline looms for saving power-sharing, Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire said on Friday.

Talks involving the main parties and the British and Irish governments are expected to continue until Monday’s time limit for the appointment of a First and Deputy First Minister before a fresh election may be called.

Mr Brokenshire said discussions had been constructive.

“There are a number of issues where I see common ground and where I firmly believe that resolution can be achieved.

“But there are other issues that still remain to be resolved in order for an Executive to be formed on Monday.”

Sinn Féin has said it will not share power with the Democratic Unionists’ leader Arlene Foster as First Minister until a public inquiry into the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is concluded.

Former deputy first minister Martin McGuinness stepped down in protest after it emerged the botched green energy scheme could cost taxpayers almost half a billion pounds sterling.

The parties had also been at loggerheads over funding for inquests into deaths during the conflict.

Mr Brokenshire added: “We also have a duty to survivors and victims to come forward with proposals to deal with the past.

“I believe that a deal is still achievable, with good will, good spirit and that positive intent.

“But time is short and we must firmly focus on those key issues to enable an Executive to be formed on Monday.”

He said he was engaged in the process.

“I will be working intensively in the coming days to achieve that positive outcome, to see inclusive devolved government restored here in Northern Ireland, that responsibility that we all feel in that regard and it is with that intent that we start meetings this morning.”

PA