Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan, TD, described the opening session of the talks with the Northern Ireland Executive parties today as positive and constructive.
Speaking after the first session in Belfast concluded, Minister Flanagan said:
“Today’s opening session of talks in Belfast was constructive. There was a significant level of goodwill and positivity shown among the participants and at the same time a clear recognition and realism about the scale of the challenges ahead.
“I made clear to the parties the total commitment of the Irish Government to the talks process and to supporting the Executive parties in making progress on the range of challenges across all streams in the talks.
“Regret was expressed at the DUP’s absence from today’s opening session. The window for progress is very narrow and I hope that the DUP will not delay in engaging fully in the talks process. The focus of all our collective efforts should be on advancing the goal of a peaceful, prosperous and reconciled Northern Ireland.
“At this morning’s opening meeting, I welcomed the positive contributions of all present. In our discussions, I was happy to confirm that the Irish Government’s participation in the talks is in line with our responsibilities and interests as co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement and will take proper account of the three stranded nature of that Agreement.
“Both the Secretary of State and I underlined that we would be working together closely in support of an ambitious outcome to the talks.”
Minister Flanagan was accompanied at the talks by Minister of State for Development, Trade Promotion, and North-South Co-operation, Seán Sherlock TD. As well as participating in the opening session, both Ministers had bilateral meetings with Sinn Féin, SDLP and Alliance Parties. Speaking after those meetings, Minister Sherlock said:
“These bilateral meetings confirmed to me the shared commitment among the parties to advance progress on issues of great importance to the people of Northern Ireland.”