Irish PM hopeful of Northern Ireland deal ‘in days’

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny meets UK counterpart David Cameron in bid to restore Northern Irish government

Photo by: AA
Photo by: AA

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny will meet Britain’s David Cameron in London on Monday in an effort to restore Northern Ireland’s government.

The territory’s power-sharing administration has effectively been suspended since September over reports that the Irish Republican Army continued to exist as a paramilitary organisation.

Talks between leaders of Northern Ireland’s opposing communities have been going on for nine weeks, but Kenny said that he believed a deal could be reached within days.

He told Ireland’s national broadcaster RTE on Sunday: “I'm very hopeful and happy about the reports I'm getting that a deal is on here and I do hope it will be concluded successfully in the next couple of days.''

“I will be talking to the prime minister in Downing Street tomorrow and afterwards make arrangements to meet with the first and deputy first minsters [of Northern Ireland] and I hope that we can have this concluded.”

Northern Ireland’s leaders ended decades of often bloody conflict with a landmark 1998 peace agreement that required the territory’s government to be a coalition between unionist parties and Irish republicans.

But that government was brought to the brink of collapse in August this year following the fatal shooting of Kevin McGuigan, a former IRA member.

Unionist parties withdrew almost all of their ministers after a senior chairman in the main Irish republican party, Sinn Fein, was arrested in connection with the murder, triggering claims that the IRA may have ordered the killing.

A report commissioned by the British government last month found the Provisional IRA army council continued to oversee Sinn Fein’s strategy, but that it was “committed to the peace process and its aim of achieving a united Ireland by political means”.

Republicans and unionists have since been in talks to break the impasse over issues, including paramilitary activity and cuts to Northern Ireland’s welfare budget.