The new Irish Foreign Affairs Minister has said the start of Brexit negotiation process underlines the urgent need to restore power-sharing as he participated in the negotiations for the first time in his new role.
Simon Coveney was in Belfast while new Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was in London to meet Theresa May to discuss issues including Northern Ireland and Brexit.
Mr Coveney, who lost out to Mr Varadkar in the race to succeed Enda Kenny, stressed the importance of having an administration in place.
“The people of Northern Ireland need devolved government working in the best interests of the whole community," he said.
"There are 10 days within the life-time of the current Assembly to secure the necessary agreement. If we needed any reminder of the urgency of having power-sharing institutions in Stormont, it is the coincidence of the Brexit negotiations beginning in Brussels today."
Michelle O’Neill said her party remained committed to work out the issues.
“Sinn Féin remains committed and our whole team is here to work our way through the issues to get back to establishing power-sharing, to get back to affording people their rights, to restore public confidence in the institutions,” she said.
She added that her party remained determined to represent those in Northern Ireland who voted to remain in the EU and they are gaining traction for their call for special status for Northern Ireland.
The DUP also spent the day at the talks at Stormont, while still involved in discussions with the Conservatives at Westminster.
Simon Hamilton insisted one process need not hold the other back.
He said: “Discussions are ongoing in London around the deal between the DUP and the Conservative party, that’s very much separate from what’s happening here in Belfast, and in fact maybe beneficial to what’s happening in Belfast.”
The latest draft paper being discussed by the parties at Stormont Castle has been leaked, it covers a programme for government, budget, relations with the EU, RHI, transparency and accountability.
It also contains a section labelled Equality and Respect and a section on Legacy - which includes plans to consult with the public as well as a £150m package.
Following the meetings Mr Coveney was positive.
He said: “We had bilaterals with all of the parties which was a very clear signal to me that people want this negotiation to work, that they want an Assembly back up and running in Northern Ireland, that they want devolved power back here again, and that people are determined to make that happen before the deadline of the 29th.”
- From Stormont, Tracey Magee discusses whether a deal looks likely by 29 June.