April 26 (UPI) — Talks on Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government will begin May 7, the British and Irish prime ministers announced Friday.
Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom, has not had a functioning government since January 2017, when a coalition of the Democratic Unionist Party and the Sinn Fein party collapsed. All six of Northern Ireland’s major parties will be involved in the talks to restore a government.
A joint statement by Theresa May, British prime minister, and Leo Varadkar, Northern Ireland’s taoisearch, or prime minister, said their attendance at the funeral in Belfast on Wednesday of journalist Lyra McKee encouraged them to again attempt to break the political deadlock.
McKee was fatally shot while covering rioting in Londonberry on April 18. Disturbances broke out following a police search of homes belonging to Irish Republican Army dissidents in the town’s Creggan neighborhood. Police believed the residents to have been storing weapons with intent to use them during the Easter holiday, a day known for dissident activity in the country. The IRA took responsibility for McKee’s death, apologizing.
“In coming together with other political leaders in Saint Anne’s Cathedral to pay tribute to Lyra McKee, we gave expression to the clear will and determination of all of the people of these islands to reject violence and to support peace and a better future for everyone in Northern Ireland,” the statement reads. “We also heard the unmistakable message to all political leaders that people across Northern Ireland want to see a new momentum for political progress. We agree that what is now needed is actions and not just words from all of us who are in positions of leadership.”
The official announcement of the start of talks came from Simon Covenay, the Northern Ireland government’s tanaiste or second-in-command, and U.K. Secretary for Northern Ireland Karen Bradley. They spoke at Stormont, site of the parliament in Belfast.
“Since Lyra’s death, communities across Northern Ireland and the political spectrum have come together, united in condemnation at this murderous act,” Bradley said. “They have delivered a clear message. The people responsible for this act of terrorism have absolutely nothing to offer Northern Ireland and have no place in society. The Tanaiste and I will do everything in our power to make sure these talks are a success.”
The power vacuum began over the Renewable Heat Incentive, an economic subsidy plan which left the government facing a potential $ 646 million deficit. The departure, in protest, of Sinn Fein deputy first minister Martin McGuinness in protest of the DUP’s handling of the matter led to a collapse of the coalition. Other standoffs have since come up, including the establishment of an Irish language act, which would compel the government to use Gaelic along with English on every action from declarations to street signage.