The Minister, Deputy Bruton, is taking over today for the Tánaiste who is in Belfast at the latest stage of the talks about the future of the Northern Ireland Assembly. It is now two and a half years since the assembly collapsed, effectively leaving the people of the North voiceless in terms of the challenge of Brexit, which has hung over the entire island over those three years and also over many day-to-day issues, including welfare, education, health, business and other issues that have been left in abeyance while we try to get this process going again.
The horrific murder of Lyra McKee on Holy Thursday by a dissident group of the New IRA was condemned by all sides in this House and on our island. However, Fr. Martin McGill struck a chord with everybody on the island when he spoke at the funeral and demanded that political leaders get their act together. He said, “Why, in God’s name, does it take the death of a 29 year old woman, with her whole life in front of her, to get to this point?” The Minister knows that people are fed up. They want to see progress and something happen from these talks.
I ask the Minister to give an update to the House and his assessment, as a politician of long standing and experience, as to the prospects for that progress, particularly in the context of Prime Minister May stepping down and a new Prime Minister being elected. Is it the Minister’s view that there may not be progress before she completes her time in office? Is the Government worried or has it discussed the potential approach of a new Prime Minister or a new leader of the Tory Party to the talks in Northern Ireland? The Tánaiste said in April that he wanted the talks to be inclusive, determined and urgent and that it was his hope that the assembly would be up and running again by July. That is a month away. Is it the Government’s view at the end of May that this deadline set by the Tánaiste can be met?