Fresh talks aimed at salvaging power-sharing must be on an all-party basis if there is to be any hope of a breakthrough, politicians on both sides of the divide have claimed.
A date for a new round of negotiations is expected to be announced in the next few days, according to DUP MP Gregory Campbell, who said they could be up-and-running by mid-January.
And while he welcomed the suggestion, UUP MLA Robbie Butler said it was vital that all of Northern Ireland’s main political parties are involved in the talks process.
He added: “We cannot have a repetition of the previous talks process whereby the DUP and Sinn Fein excluded other parties. The DUP and Sinn Fein have has almost 12 months to resolve their differences and they have failed miserably.
“We need local ministers in post to take the decisions necessary to help and protect local people. Enough is enough. Let’s get talks restarted and this time let’s see it through.”
SDLP deputy leader Nichola Mallon MLA also insisted that any new talks must be “inclusive”.
She added: “We welcome the return to dialogue after weeks have been wasted by the DUP and Sinn Fein refusing to talk about the future of government here.
“However, dialogue cannot continue on the same basis.
“These talks must be inclusive, with all parties treated with equality and respect. We cannot leave it up to the DUP and Sinn Fein alone who have completely failed at negotiating to chart a way forward.”
Ms Mallon reiterated her party’s call for an independent mediator to be brought in to aid the talks process, adding: “Mr Brokenshire can no longer be viewed as an impartial broker given his government’s cosy deal with the DUP.”
The Belfast North MLA also called for the DUP and Sinn Fein to “come clean with the public” and publish the details on their private talks over the past year.
“All parties must put their cards on the table,” she added. “We need to see the ‘progress’ that the DUP and Sinn Fein have made - if any, over the past number of months.”
There have been suggestions that talks aimed at restoring devolution could be shifted away from Stormont to other venues in a bid to break the political impasse.
But Alliance MLA Kellie Armstrong said: “Instead of a change of venue, what we need is a change of attitudes from the DUP and Sinn Fein. The public are sick, sore and tired of a talks process going nowhere.
“Alliance has continuously brought forward solutions – from papers on the Irish language to calling for an international mediator to chair the process. It’s time the two biggest parties showed that same desire.”