North’s parties pressed to solve impasse

Tánaiste Simon Coveney will travel to the North tomorrow for talks with the region’s main political parties amid growing pressure for them to form a new coalition government in the aftermath of Lyra McKee’s murder.

Mr Coveney’s visit was confirmed as it separately emerged the Department of Justice is keeping the law governing paramilitary-style marches in the Republic “under continuing review” after Saoradh’s march in Dublin on Saturday and Cork on Sunday.

In a move likely to put the emphasis on the North’s parties to sit down for fresh talks on resolving the Stormont stalemate which has frozen devolved government for more than two years, Mr Coveney will travel to the North today.

During the visit, he will meet individually with the main political parties to assess if negotiations can take place for a new coalition, and is expected to press home the need for a breakthrough in light of Ms McKee’s death last Thursday.

Mr Coveney’s visit comes as SDLP leader Colum Eastwood yesterday urged all parties in the North to come back around the table for talks, saying there is “no excuse”.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin repeated the call yesterday, saying in a statement “the first step now is clear” and that talks involving all parties in the North must happen.

However, while the SDLP, Alliance Party, and UUP have said they are willing to meet, it remains unclear if Sinn Féin and the DUP are prepared to try to find a breakthrough.

Mr Coveney’s visit to the North comes as the Department of Justice said yesterday that it is keeping the law regarding paramilitary-style marches “under continuing review” in the wake of Saoradh’s widely derided march in Dublin on Saturday.

In a statement to the Irish Examiner, the department said Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan needed to “balance” the right to march, “however distasteful” the activity, with the rule of law, and will meet with Garda Commissioner Drew Harris this week.

Mr Flanagan and Mr Harris’s meeting is expected to include talks on how satisfied the commissioner is with the legal powers available to him as well as broader security discussions around the threat posed by dissident republicans.

However, it is understood garda and Government sources are unsure if they will be able to introduce further laws to limit public marches unless in specific circumstances.

A number of laws — including the Criminal Law Act 1976, the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2005 ,and the Defence Act 1987 — cover some parts of public pseudo-military style marches by some organisations.

However, it is understood officials believe these laws do not go far enough, with restrictions on marches potentially only possible if specific rules are added to existing laws.

Meanwhile, Independent senator and former soldier Ger Craughwell has written to Mr Harris to insist that gardaí investigate Saturday’s Saoradh march under the Defence (Amendment) Act 1987 which bans people from wearing uniforms which wrongly claim to be those of army or gardaí.

Meanwhile, a candlelight vigil to celebrate the life and legacy of Ms McKee followed by music, song, and reflections will be held at the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin this evening.

Organised by the National Union of Journalists, the event will begin at 6pm and is intended to facilitate those unable to attend Lyra’s funeral in Belfast tomorrow.

Participants will include singer Noel O’Grady and members of Gloria, Dublin’s Gay and Lesbian Choir, with readings from Ms McKee’s own work.

Separately, 39-year-old Keith McClenaghan from Moss Park, Shantallow in Derry, has appeared in court charged with communicating false information causing a bomb hoax after suspect devices were found in the city on Sunday.

Mr McClenaghan was also charged with two counts of possessing home-made explosives with intent to endanger life, and with placing an article causing a bomb hoax at two separate addresses in the city.

Residents in several properties were evacuated while an area close to the city’s police station in Strand Road was affected.

Officers said no link to terrorism or Ms McKee’s murder on Thursday is being suggested.

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