N.Ireland: Talks to restore power-sharing gov't resume

By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal</p> <p>LONDON (AA) – The leaders of Northern Ireland’s political parties and representatives of British and Irish governments have resumed talks to restore a power-sharing regional government on Tuesday.</p> <p>The talks started in Stormont — a Northern Irish Executive complex in Belfast — after more than two years since the latest election in the U.K. region.</p> <p>The politicians held a short round-table meeting of the new process prompted by the U.K. and Irish governments following the murder of a journalist in Londonderry in April.</p> <p>Britain’s Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley and Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney presented an outlined format of talks to resolve the stalemate.</p> <p>Five leaders and representatives of two governments will meet once a week and five working groups will focus on the key disputes.</p> <p>The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Arlene Foster said she would enter the talks with a “good heart” and with determination to find a solution.</p> <p>Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald said her party was ready to “do the business”.</p> <p>U.K.’s Bradley warned the parties, saying “none of us should be under any illusion about this.”</p> <p>“There are some very significant challenges and this is not going to be easy,” she said, adding she would not comment on the issue any more during the process.</p> <p>“All of the parties and their political leaders were very constructive for the initial meeting today, but clearly we’ve a lot of work to do,” Coveney said.</p> <p>Since the March 2017 legislative assembly election, Irish nationalists of the Sinn Fein party and pro-British unionists under the DUP have been unable to find common ground on divisive issues such as the introduction of an Irish language act and legacy issues inherited from decades of violence popularly known as “The Troubles”.</p> <p>The previous local administration collapsed in January 2017 with the resignation of Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness over a botched energy saving deal. McGuinness died shortly after and was given a state funeral.</p> <p>The DUP lost support in the March 2017 election, but managed to remain the biggest party with a single-seat margin in the Northern Ireland Assembly over Sinn Fein.</p> <p>But the DUP performed strongly in a U.K. general election in June 2017. In an unprecedented political move, it has become a vital source of support for the U.K.’s Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May after she lost the majority in the House of Commons.