UK and Ireland Agrees On Timetable For New Northern Ireland talks


Theresa May, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and Leo Varadkar, the Prime Minister of Ireland, have both agreed to set out a new five-week process that is aimed at restoring the Northern Ireland executive for the first time since January 2017.

The said move comes amidst the murder of Lyra McKee, a journalist, last week in Londonderry, and a piercing call to action by a priest officiating during her funeral.

In a joint statement that was released by both governments, Varadkar and May said that they heard the “unmistakable message” at the funeral of McKee for political leaders to create “new momentum for political progress.”

The statement said: “In coming together with other political leaders in St Anne’s Cathedral to pay tribute to Lyra McKee, we gave expression to the clear will and determination of all of the people of these islands to reject violence and to support peace and a better future for everyone in Northern Ireland.”

Northern Ireland has been without an executive for over two years because of a political stalemate between Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

The statement said that the negotiations will involve “all the main political parties in Northern Ireland, together with the UK and Irish governments.”

It added: “The aim of these talks is quickly to re-establish to full operation the democratic institutions of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement — the [Northern Ireland] Executive, Assembly, and North-South Ministerial Council — so that they can effectively serve all of the people for the future.”

The New IRA is considered as one of a handful of groups that oppose the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. It has claimed responsibility for the death of McKee, which happened during an Irish nationalist militant riot that was held in the Creggan area of Londonderry on Good Friday.

Her murder has not only sparked outrage in Northern Ireland but has also shown how fragile the peace in the region is.

The 1998 agreement ushered in around 20 years of relative stability, after three decades of clashes between Republicans and unionist, simply known as the Troubles, that took the lives of over 3,600 people.

A Catholic priest, Martin Magill, was given a standing ovation during a eulogy that was delivered at the funeral of McKee when he asked “why, in God’s name, does it take the death of a 29-year-old woman, with her whole life in front of her” to get politicians to come together.

The collapse of the Northern Ireland executive two years ago came after a scandal that involved a failed renewable energy incentive scheme that was known as the Renewable Heat Incentive.

However, talks have not yet progressed for a number of reasons, including the objections of Sinn Féin to both the use of a parliamentary mechanism of the DUP to prevent the introduction of same-sex marriage and its position on the Irish language.

Fundamentally, both parties also disagree about Brexit, with the DUP staunchly in favour of the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union, and Sinn Féin was against it.

This has meant that even though the DUP props up the government of PM May in the House of Commons, Northern Ireland has been without a government amidst the Brexit talks that directly affect it.