Stormont suspension extended as political leaders look set to hold talks about future of devolved institutions

Parliament Buildings, Stormont
Parliament Buildings, Stormont

MPs have approved an extension to the suspension of the Northern Ireland Assembly as senior Stormont politicians look set to take part in fresh talks aimed at restoring the power-sharing institutions.

MPs heard the Statutory Instrument tabled by the Government gives "another five months of breathing space" to get the Assembly back up and running.

Talks have repeatedly stalled since the collapse of the executive more than two years ago, with decisions on running Northern Ireland effectively put on hold since then.

But Secretary of State Karen Bradley yesterday told the House of Commons she intends to hold discussions with Northern Ireland's political leaders this week in a bid to end the impasse at Stormont.

Her statement in Parliament came in the wake of the murder of 29-year-old journalist Lyra McKee by the New IRA.

Northern Ireland minister John Penrose urged MPs to back the "small and perfectly-formed" legislation, but also "back all efforts on all sides of the community to push both sides towards a resumption and successful conclusion to those talks".

Labour's shadow Northern Ireland minister Stephen Pound said his party would support it, but called on Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley to "do more" to restore the Assembly.

He said it was with "sadness we support this tonight, but we understand it's necessary".

Mr Pound added: "I profoundly hope there will be less and less of Northern Ireland business taken on the floor of this House and let it be repatriated to Northern Ireland where it belongs."

Mrs Bradley had previously planned to consider fresh power-sharing talks after the council elections on May 2. However, following the murder of Lyra McKee, several Stormont parties have called for talks to begin immediately.