Stormont talks on the edge, warns Woodward

Stormont talks on the edge, warns Woodward

Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward warned today that efforts to reach a deal on policing and justice in the North were “on the edge”.

After eight days of negotiations, he told MPs that with “good political will” there could still be a “reasonable” agreement.

But he warned that failure to achieve agreement would put much of the achievements of the peace process at risk.

He was speaking as talks continue in the North between the DUP, Sinn Féin and the British and Irish governments in an attempt to save the power-sharing government.

A deal is expected to cover the devolution of policing and justice powers from Westminster to the Assembly by May, a key republican demand, plus new arrangements on overseeing loyal order parades, which is sought by unionists.

At question time in the Commons, Mr Woodward told MPs: “Considerable progress has been made. With good political will, we believe the parties should be able to reach a reasonable agreement.”

But answering a question from the Tory chairman of the Northern Ireland Select Committee, Patrick Cormack, he warned: “Patience is required, but equally we must be careful not to try people’s patience to distraction.

“Unfair failure to make progress would not be rewarded, and I don’t mean by any particular process now, but by the people of Northern Ireland.

“We have changed their lives by the peace process, we have secured it in the political process.

“It is right to make progress but we do indeed now sit on the edge.”

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