Flanagan: All have a duty to seal North deal

There is a “window of opportunity” to reach agreement securing the future of the power-sharing administration, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan has said.

As talks got under way, he said he was not contemplating failure.

“I do believe there is a solemn duty and obligation on the part of everybody involved to forge agreement that is in the best interests, in fact in the only interests, of the people of Northern Ireland and the people of the island,” he said.

The talks will focus on paramilitary activity and welfare reform, but without an agreement the future of the power-sharing administration is in jeopardy, Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers added.

“The [British] government does not feel that the time would be right to suspend the institutions at this stage and under these circumstances. If the circumstances were to change in the future, we would of course need to look at all our options.”

The ministerial executive at Stormont has been under threat of collapse since police said IRA members were involved in the murder of Kevin McGuigan in east Belfast last month.

Police believe Mr McGuigan was killed by members of the Provisional IRA in revenge for the death of prominent republican Gerard “Jock” Davison in May.

Although the Police Service of Northern Ireland chief constable George Hamilton has insisted the IRA is not back on a war footing, disclosure that the organisation still exists has rocked the political establishment.

Ms Villiers said the police assessment of the IRA may change over time.

On Monday, the Democratic Unionist Party, Northern Ireland’s largest party, said there would be no further routine meetings of the ministerial executive until the latest crisis was resolved.

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