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No end to Stormont deadlock in sight after parties meet Secretary of State

Stormont has not sat for around 20 months in a row over a botched green energy scheme and serious differences on the Irish language.

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Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O’Neill has called for action (Michael McHugh/PA)

The British Government should urgently release funding to allow judges to investigate conflict killings in Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein said.

What republicans term rights issues, like helping victims address the toxic legacy of the 30-year conflict, are at the heart of the party’s refusal to return to powersharing government with the Democratic Unionists.

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley is consulting on a suite of measures to address the demands for truth and justice of victims and survivors of the carnage.

Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O’Neill met her on Monday as part of the British Government’s efforts to restore powersharing at Stormont.

She said: “The issues of rights are not arbitrary issues, they have real life implications for individuals.

“The Ballymurphy families, 47 years later, are standing outside court to protest to have their rights respected.

“That is not good enough, it is totally not acceptable, so we made it clear to Karen Bradley today that she needs to release the funding for the Lord Chief Justice in order to allow inquests to move forward.”

Campaigners claim members of the Parachute Regiment were responsible for deaths during three days of gunfire involving soldiers in Ballymurphy in August 1971.

Ten people were shot dead, including a priest trying to aid one of the wounded and a mother-of-eight. Another man later died of heart failure.

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Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O’Neill raised the plight of those killed in the Ballymurphy massacre with Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley (Rebecca Black/PA)

Stormont has not sat for 20 months amid serious differences on identity issues like the place of the Irish language.

Mrs O’Neill claimed Mrs Bradley had failed to produce proposals for breaking the political logjam.

“I think the British Government lack ambition, they lack ambition in order to restore this Executive.”

The Democratic Unionists did not meet the Northern Ireland Secretary. In the face of what it sees as Sinn Fein intransigence, the party is calling for a return to direct rule from Westminster and its leader Arlene Foster was at an event in Gibraltar.

Senior Alliance Party Assembly member Stephen Farry said: “We have been disappointed by the lack of energy that there has been in the talks, or lack of talks, since February and it is now incumbent on the governments to re-energise the process over the course of the autumn.

“There is a real essential requirement to appoint a mediator to work between the parties, that in itself is not going to crack it but it will make a world of difference in terms of the dynamics and avoid people wriggling away from their responsibilities.”

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann said he was “underwhelmed”.

He added: “There is no bite, there is no detail and we did not see any direction as to how decisions are going to be made or what they are going to be made about.”

He highlighted delays in achieving public sector pay equality across the UK, compensating clerical abuse victims and progress in tackling suicide, which have fallen foul of the political impasse.

He suggested Mrs Bradley convene a group with representatives from all the parties to give political cover or guidance to make some of these “crucial” decisions.

SDLP Assembly member Nicola Mallon said the British Government should step in and bring forward legislation around language and equal marriage.

“Remove the obstacles, remove the excuses, and let’s get local Government back up and running,” she said.

“Remove the obstacles, remove the excuses, and let’s get local Government back up and running,” she said.

Mrs Bradley said the right way forward was stable, fully functioning, inclusive devolved government.

She said: “Last week, I set out the Government’s clear plan to bring that about and today was the first step in that process.

“I will continue engagement over the next days and weeks ahead of legislation to support the ongoing delivery of public services in Northern Ireland.

“Devolved government is in the best interests of Northern Ireland and this is what I am determined to deliver.”

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Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O’Neill has called for action (Michael McHugh/PA)
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Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O’Neill raised the plight of those killed in the Ballymurphy massacre with Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley (Rebecca Black/PA)