POLITICS
26/04/2019 14:52 BST | Updated 26/04/2019 15:25 BST

Talks To Restore Northern Ireland Government To Begin In Wake Of Lyra McKee Murder

Theresa May and Leo Varadkar said political leaders had heard an “unmistakable message” following her death.

Talks aimed at restoring Northern Ireland’s government are to resume after the murder of journalist Lyra McKee.

The province has been without a government for more than 800 days following the collapse in power-sharing between unionists and nationalists.

But in a joint statement, Theresa May and Irish taoiseach Leo Varadkar said political leaders had heard an “unmistakable message” following the journalist’s murder on April 18.

On Wednesday, Catholic peacemaking priest Father Martin Magill challenged politicians as to why it had taken the death of the 29-year-old to unite them during her funeral.

Leaders have now agreed to establish a new process of political talks including Northern Ireland’s main parties - the unionist DUIP and nationalist Sinn Fein - to “quickly” re-establish” the devolved Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly.

May and Varadkar 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.

“We also heard the unmistakable message to all political leaders that people across Northern Ireland want to see a new momentum for political progress. 

“We agree that what is now needed is actions and not just words from all of us who are in positions of leadership.”

PA Wire/PA Images
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and UK Prime Minister Theresa May leave the funeral service of murdered journalist Lyra McKee at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast.

They said talks would now begin to re-establish the democratic institutions which underpin the Good Friday Agreement which paved the way for peace in Northern Ireland following decades of violence during the Troubles.

They will begin “as soon as possible” after local elections in Northern Ireland on May 2, with progress to be reviewed at the end of the month.

The institutions have been suspended for more than two years following a row between former governing partners the DUP and Sinn Fein. Endless rounds of negotiations failed to break the deadlock.

Sinn Fein has rejected DUP leader Arlene Foster’s latest offer to move the political impasse in Northern Ireland.

May and Varadkar said: “We understand the complexity of the underlying concerns of all parties, and the need for renewed trust, mutual respect, generosity and new thinking to resolve the issues.

“As Prime Minister and Taoiseach, we are determined to work together to ensure this process comes to a successful conclusion.”

Foster wants a twin-track approach where the devolved institutions are restored quickly to deal with issues like running the health service, while a separate process addresses disagreements like that over same-sex marriage.

Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O’Neill has rejected that and said issues like marriage equality and protection for the Irish language need to be delivered to pave the way for restoration of the devolved institutions.