New Northern Ireland talks called, spurred by journalist's death

Pallbearers carry the coffin of journalist Lyra McKee at her funeral at St. Anne's Cathedral in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Reuters)
The British and Irish governments announced a resumption on Friday of talks to restore Northern Ireland's devolved government, spurred into ending a hiatus in dialogue of more than a year by the killing of a journalist last week.

The British-run province has been without a devolved executive for over two years since Irish nationalists Sinn Fein withdrew from the compulsory power-sharing government with the pro-British Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

But the shooting dead last week of 29-year-old reporter Lyra McKee during rioting by militant Irish nationalists has raised pressure on the parties from voters and the two governments to re-establish the regional government that is central to Northern Ireland's 1998 peace agreement.

"In coming together with other political leaders in St Anne's Cathedral to pay tribute to Lyra McKee, we gave expression to the clear will and determination of all of the people of these islands to reject violence and to support peace," British Prime Minister Theresa May and Irish premier Leo Varadkar said in a joint statement.

"We also heard the unmistakable message to all political leaders that people across Northern Ireland want to see a new momentum for political progress. We agree that what is now needed is actions and not just words from all of us who are in positions of leadership."

The aim of the talks was to quickly re-establish the full operation of the institutions with progress to be reviewed at the end of May, they said.

Attempts to find a compromise have been complicated by poor relations between Sinn Fein and the DUP, the DUP's role in propping up May's minority government in London, and the impact on the region of Britain's planned exit from the European Union.

The talks most recently collapsed in February last year when Sinn Fein said that they had reached an accommodation with the leadership of the DUP that put an agreement within reach but that the DUP failed to close the deal and collapsed the talks.

Additional rights for Irish-language speakers sought by Sinn Fein was cited by the DUP as the main reason they reached an impasse and neither side have shown much willingness to budge in recent days, despite the renewed pressure on both.

At McKee's funeral on Wednesday, Roman Catholic Father Martin Magill received a spontaneous standing ovation when he made a direct appeal to the politicians in the church to use McKee's death as a catalyst to start talking again

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Northern IrelandLyra McKeeDevolved Government