No Theresa May visit for Stormont talks, Government source says

Stormont
Stormont

Prime Minister Theresa May will not be flying into Northern Ireland to get involved in talks to restore powersharing at Stormont.

Former Northern Ireland Secretary Lord Hain said that the PM must call an urgent summit to restore the Northern Ireland Executive or direct rule will be inevitable.

However, a government source has said there is no reason for Mrs May to become intensively involved in post-election talks at this stage.

The source said the more sensible approach is for Secretary of State James Brokenshire to take the lead, as previous secretary of states have done in the past.

It is understood that Mr Brokenshire has been in regular contact with the Prime Minister about the situation and is expected to fully brief her in Cabinet on Wednesday.

While there is no rush for Mrs May to directly involve herself in the talks, involvement at some stage in the future has not been ruled out.

The source said it is not inconceivable that she will attend at some point.

Talks have resumed at Stormont aimed at restoring the powersharing executive, but the parties have just three weeks to resolve their differences.

Otherwise, the NI Secretary could call another election or seek legislation to suspend the institutions.

Earlier, Lord Hain, now a Labour member of the House of Lords, said the London and Dublin governments had "taken their eyes off the ball" and that a summit was now required "to bring all the parties together to thrash out an agreement".

Last week's assembly election ended the unionist majority at Stormont, with Sinn Fein now just a solitary seat behind the Democratic Unionist Party.

Leaders of the main political parties are scheduled to have separate discussions with Mr Brokenshire again today.

DUP party leader Arlene Foster is also to meet with her MLAs for the first time since the election.

She has denied reports that a third of her party's newly returned members of the legislative assembly wanted her to step down.

Mr Brokenshire and Irish foreign minister Charlie Flanagan have been mandated by the British and Irish governments to lead the talks.

The government source also disputed Lord Hain's comments and said that under the current government there have been two major political agreements and the longest period of unbroken devolved government since the 1960s.

Following a party meeting, Arlene Foster said she was delighted with the support she had received from her colleagues.

She added that she was looking forward to going into the negotiations to "get a good deal, not just for unionism but for all the people of Northern Ireland".

"We are focused on the restoration of devolution and making sure that we have that stability for the people of Northern Ireland," she added.