The continuing absence of the power-sharing Executive and Assembly in Northern Ireland and the North South Ministerial Council is of grave concern for the Government, as it is for the British Government.
I have engaged extensively with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland throughout the latest talks process, to encourage the parties to reach an accommodation. I continued this engagement over the summer months and I remain in regular and ongoing contact with Secretary of State Smith, meeting most recently last week, to work to secure agreement between the parties to get all of the institutions of the Agreement up and running again.
All five political parties have engaged constructively in the talks process with that objective over the last number of months. Progress has been made across a range of important issues. However, some key outstanding issues remain and finding final agreement on these issues will require genuine and courageous dialogue and leadership by the party leaders in Northern Ireland.
The awful murder of Lyra McKee and the outpouring of public feeling that followed demands a serious response at political level. People want the devolved power-sharing institutions up and running again to represent their interests and deal with the issues and challenges that Northern Ireland faces at present, not least the difficulties raised by the UK exit from the European Union. The functioning of the North South Ministerial Council is also urgently required, to bring together the Executive and the Government to oversee and develop co-operation on the island, and as a vital part of the Good Friday Agreement.
In this context, the political parties, in particular the two largest parties, must live up to their responsibilities and be open to fair and workable compromises on the small number of outstanding issues, to secure the overall interests of people in Northern Ireland and to protect and operate the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement again.
This will be difficult, but the two Governments believe that this can, and must, be achieved. Accordingly, the Government will continue to do everything possible to support continuing engagement and progress in discussions between the political parties, working with the UK Government in any scenario, as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement.