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Tánaiste hopes talks will facilitate reestablishment of Stormont executive

The Tánaiste said he hopes talks with the Northern Secretary of State today will produce a structure to facilitate the re-establishment of a functioning executive in Stormont.

Speaking at an Irish Examiner breakfast briefing in Cork this morning before his journey to Belfast, Simon Coveney said he hoped the tragedy in Derry last week, when journalist Lyra McKee was shot dead by dissident republicans, will be part of the catalyst needed to allow for a new beginning in politics in Ireland.

“I am meeting the Secretary of State Karen Bradley and hopefully we will have more to say after that meeting but that meeting needs to take place first before we start talking publicly about it,” he said.

He said the Irish and British governments, and the various political parties in Northern Ireland, are aware that Northern Ireland needs its own government and needs politics to work.

“We know what happens when politics doesn’t work in Northern Ireland and we’ve seen a tragic example of that in the last week,” he said.

“So the Secretary of State and I, and both governments are very aware of our responsibilities,” he said.

“We are co-guarantors of the Good Friday agreement and so we are meeting in Belfast again today and we will make a statement after that.

Both governments know that we have a responsibility to work together and to give both leadership and structure to help the parties to find a way of re-establishing a functioning Stormont and a functioning executive.

He said despite the strains of Brexit, both the Irish and British Government are united on this issue.

“I have a very close relationship with the Secretary of State. We work with all of the parties in Northern Ireland, and as I say we are co-guarantors of the Good Friday agreement,” he said.

“And with that comes responsibility to protect the institutions of the Good Friday agreement and, in this case, to reestablish them because they haven’t been active now for more than two years.

“So we are all going to work on that together and we will work closely with all of the political parties.”

But he said he didn’t think it was right to make a direct link between the political vacuum in Northern Ireland and the emergence of dissident groups.

He said her death was as a result of “totally irresponsible rioting” on the streets of Derry.

Lyra McKee

“It was a tragedy - somebody who was an amazing person has been taken from their family and from many others she influenced, because of dissident republican activity and reckless behaviour that not only endangered her fatally, but also endangered many other people, including the PSNI.

“But we have always said that the way to respond to that kind of warped thinking that comes from dissidents and paramilitaries is functioning politics.

“And those of us who are committed to that have an obligation to make it work - and that’s not easy.

“It’s not easy for political parties in Northern Ireland to do that.

Politics in Northern Ireland is challenging. It can be very polarised, partisan and very crude at times, and so to come together to find a compromise, to find middle-ground positions, to be generous towards competitors, isn’t easy.

“But we have seen the consequences over the last two years of the lack of political leadership in Northern Ireland in a structure, and a functioning executive and a functioning Stormont, which is what we need.

“I think the tragedy of the last week, I hope, will be part of the catalyst needed to allow for a new beginning for politics in Northern Ireland, and it’s up to the governments to work with parties to make sure that we can put a structure in place that can facilitate that.”