Intense talks will be needed to save power-sharing and Stormont House and ‘Fresh Start’ were the ‘Febreze’ option: Durkan

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Senior politicians from both sides of the divide in Derry have warned Secretary of State James Brokenshire to be ready for the intense negotiations that will be needed to try to save meaningful power-sharing arrangements in the North after March 2.

Foyle MP Mark Durkan claimed the roots of the current crisis were grounded in the limited talks at Stormont House and ‘Fresh Start’, which, he said, compared to air freshener being superficially applied to persistent odours that won’t go away.

Meanwhile, Wille Hay of the DUP said the Secretary of State took the easy option in calling an election and warned that the demands of Sinn Féin after March 2 will be difficult to meet, hinting at a tortuous round of cross-party talks.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Tuesday, Mr. Durkan put it to Mr. Brokenshire that, “after the elections, there will be negotiations, and that ​those negotiations will have to be more inclusive, more comprehensive and more fundamental than what passed for negotiations in Stormont House”.

He said: “The outcome will have to be more robust and more reliable than the political Febreze that we got with the ‘Fresh Start’ agreement.”

Mr. Brokenshire replied: “We must achieve a position that creates stability and a sense of shared power arrangements, as that will allow Northern Ireland to move on.”

Across the lobby in the House of Lords, the DUP veteran said no-one “should underestimate the huge challenge faced by our politicians in Northern Ireland after these Assembly elections in trying to put a power-sharing Government together in Northern Ireland”.

He said: “The demands of Sinn Féin may be very difficult for any of our politicians in Northern Ireland to meet.

“On this occasion, the Northern Ireland Office Secretary of State went to elections. I can understand why he did so but the next time round I hope that it will not be a case of having elections.

“It is all right talking to and meeting the parties, but what plans are the Government bringing forward to try to resolve this issue? Up until now, I have seen nothing. It was probably an easy option for the Secretary of State to go to elections. On the next occasion, it will not be an ​easy option.”