1. ITV Report

Government considers 'independent facilitator' to break Stormont deadlock

The Government is considering the appointment of an independent facilitator to break the deadlock and restore devolved government to Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland minister Lord Duncan of Springbank said the Government was "actively considering" such a move to "bring about greater communication between the parties".

Faced with pressure to break the logjam, he told peers at question time: "We hope that will lead to the breakthrough that we need."

Lord Duncan was replying to Labour's Lord Dubs, who warned there had been no progress in restoring government to Stormont over the last two years.

"If the Secretary of State can't bring the parties together, can we have an independent, impartial person to chair such meetings between the parties," Lord Dubs asked.

Lord Duncan said restoring devolved government remained a top priority and Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley was continuing to encourage parties to come together to achieve this aim.

Former Ulster Unionist leader Lord Empey said that despite statements from the Government there was no process led by ministers to get negotiations going.

"As a consequence, a vacuum has been created," he said.

"That vacuum is being filled already, as we saw at the weekend, by the men of violence."

Lord Empey urged the Northern Ireland Secretary to "get her skates on and get a process started to get this matter resolved".

Lord Duncan said: "I can assure you that she does indeed have her skates on but unfortunately not everyone else is wearing their skates and willing to dance to the same tune. That remains the challenge we face."

He said good governance must be the first task of the Government, adding: "We will deliver that by whichever means is required in the time frame we have set out."

Labour's leader in the Lords Baroness Smith of Basildon said there was huge frustration in Northern Ireland that nothing had moved forward in two years and there was no end in sight.

She said an independent arbitrator could offer a way forward, bring all the parties together and offer a "sense of momentum that something is really going to happen".

Lord Duncan said the Government did need to move forward on this matter and a facilitator was an aspect of the Government's consideration.

"We are now talking about a matter of weeks to try and achieve this," he said.

"We need to have everyone in that room."