Villiers rejects claim UK not committed to Ulster

Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers
Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers

The Government has rejected a suggestion by Labour that it is not fully committed to Northern Ireland, after peace talks ended without agreement in the early hours of New Year’s Eve.

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers insisted the coalition remained “strongly engaged” in the peace process and to the people of Northern Ireland.

Defending the role that the UK has played in Northern Ireland, she said: “I wholly refute the perception of disengagement by the UK Government.”

Speaking shortly after delivering a statement on the breakdown of talks chaired by US diplomat Dr Richard Haass, she said: “The UK Government is strongly engaged with the Haass process and with Northern Ireland.

“We brought the G8 to Northern Ireland - one of the most successful events ever in Northern Ireland; we followed up with a strong investment conference; we signed an economic pact, which sees us working more closely than ever with the devolved government, including the commitment to meet the £18 billion of capital spending; and we are determined to press ahead with supporting the Executive in its moves on a shared future.”

She added: “We’ve responded when the Executive have asked us, for example, to devolve air passenger duty on long-haul flights; we stepped into assist in the grave situation we inherited from Labour on the Presbyterian Mutual Society; we are continuing to work on the devolution of corporation tax; there are a whole range of ways that this Government is working closely with the Northern Ireland Executive for the benefit of the people of Northern Ireland.”

The talks were seeking a deal on contentious parades, flags and dealing with a troubled past.