London and Dublin were set to announce a fresh attempt to revive Northern Ireland’s power-sharing devolved administration, reports said Friday, following the killing of a journalist by nationalist paramilitaries.
Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom, has been without its semi-autonomous government since January 2017 following a breakdown in trust between the main parties.
In a rare joint statement, politicians from Northern Ireland’s six biggest parties united to condemn the killing of 29-year-old Lyra McKee, shot dead on April 18 while reporting on riots in the second city of Londonderry.
Her death has triggered a renewed attempt to mend the fences between the main parties representing the British unionist and Irish nationalist communities.
The New IRA (Irish Republican Army) paramilitary splinter group, which violently opposes the peace process in Northern Ireland, admitted responsibility for McKee’s killing, saying she was unintentionally shot as they attacked “enemy” police officers.
At her funeral on Wednesday, Father Martin Magill commended Northern Ireland’s political leaders for joining together at her funeral, but asked, to a standing ovation: “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 us to this point?'” It is expected that the talks could take place following the May 2 local elections in Northern Ireland.
Britain’s Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley and Ireland’s Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney are expected to hold a press conference later on Friday in Belfast.
The two largest parties, the pro-British Democratic Unionists (DUP) and Irish republican Sinn Fein, are at loggerheads over several issues.
As the largest parties from each side, the two are supposed to govern together under a power-sharing accord reached in 1998 to end three decades of violent conflict.
Sinn Fein brought down the semi-autonomous executive in January 2017, citing a breakdown in trust.
Both blame the other for the paralysis and several exhaustive rounds of talks have floundered, with deadlines coming and going.
In the absence of an executive, the province has been run by civil servants.
DUP leader Arlene Foster has suggested a twin-track approach whereby the devolved institutions are restored quickly to deal with issues like schools and the health service, while a separate process addresses the sticking points that the parties cannot agree on.
Michelle O’Neill, Sinn Fein’s leader in Northern Ireland, has rejected the plan, saying its demands including allowing same-sex marriage and official recognition of the Irish language had to be delivered.