Party leaders in Northern Ireland have again voiced the need to restore power sharing as talks are set to resume tomorrow.
This week both Sinn Féin and the SDLP spoke of the need to get beyond “slogans and soundbites” by finding a resolution.
If indeed a deal is struck, it is unclear at this stage who will replace former Foyle MLA Colum Eastwood at Stormont following the SDLP Leader’s successful Westminster election.
Speculation has also surfaced that Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney will step down in the coming weeks paving the way for the return of Elisha McCallion or Fiachra McGuinness - son of the late Deputy First Minister.
The Derry News contacted both parties for clarification but did not receive a response at the time of going to press.
Before Christmas, the British and Irish governments pointed the finger at the DUP over a failure to restore devolution, a position the DUP flatly rejects.
Commenting on the need for an agreement to be reached this week, Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald said: “The outstanding issues can be resolved. The time for acrimony and division is over. The time for slogans and soundbites is over.
“The test now for every party that has talked up getting back to work is to go back to the Executive table and deliver.”
SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood MP has said that parties must enter today’s negotiations prepared for the compromises necessary to restore power sharing.
He said: “Later this week, after months of talking about partnership and compromise in TV debates and newspaper articles, political leaders have the opportunity to show that it wasn’t just talk.
“For almost three years we have been without a government to deal with hospital waiting lists, pay parity for healthcare workers, the funding crisis in our schools and the welfare cliff edge about to hit tens of thousands of families. It’s time to get back to work.
“The SDLP has made compromise proposals already. With less than two weeks to secure a resolution, all parties must be prepared to stretch themselves in the substantial common interests of all our communities.”
Meanwhile, UUP Leader Steve Aiken said his party is committed to building a better government through a “restored and reformed” Assembly and Executive.
The British and Irish governments had been holding talks with the parties, however, they were paused over the Christmas holidays.
The parties have until January 13 to negotiate a deal, otherwise Northern Ireland Secretary of State Julian Smith says he must call a fresh assembly election.
January 16 will mark three years since Stormont collapsed, when the late Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness resigned in protest over the Renewable Heat Incentive scandal.
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