Political leaders left disappointed after meeting with Secretary of State

Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O'Neill speaking at the Great Hall, Parliament Buildings, Stormont following a meeting with Secretary of State Karen Bradley. 'Picture by Brian Little/PressEye

Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill has accused the UK government of “lacking ambition” to restore the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The possibility of resurrecting the talks process was discussed when representatives from four of the main political parties held separate meetings with the Secretary of State at Stormont today.

However, speaking after their meeting, Mrs O’Neill accused Karen Bradley of having “nothing new to say in terms of any proposal to restore the Executive.”

While Sinn Fein brought about the collapse of the devolved government when they walked out of the Assembly in January last year, the party’s Northern Ireland leader laid the blame for the lack of progress in restoring the devolved institutions with the government at Westminster.

UUP leader Robin Swann, who also met with the Secretary of State, said he and his colleagues were “underwhelmed” by what they’d heard, saying it had “no bite, no detail and no direction.”

He said the prospect of talks getting under way in the near future are “very slim”, but stressed that “Northern Ireland cannot just be left to wither on the vine.”

The Alliance Party’s Stephen Farry described their meeting with the Secretary of State as “frank”, stressing that “there urgently needs to be a change of pace” in terms of efforts to restore the Assembly.

He called for the appointment of a talks mediator and for the government to take steps to reform the controversial Petition of Concern.

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