Brokenshire successor needs to appoint independent talks chair: Eastwood

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SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has called on James Brokenshire's successor as Secretary of State for the North to appoint an independent arbiter to chair talks aimed at the restoration of the Northern Ireland Executive.

Mr. Eastwood MLA wished Mr. Brokenshire well after he announced he was leaving the cabinet on health grounds.

“I want to send my sincere best wishes to James Brokenshire as he steps down from his position as Secretary of State to focus on his own health. I’ve always had a very good working relationship with him," he said.

"In the course of negotiations, the SDLP has often disagreed with the position of his government but I have always found Mr Brokenshire to be personable, reasonable and, so far as possible, helpful.

“Our thoughts are with him and his family as he takes time to concentrate on his health," he added.

The Foyle MLA said whoever succeeded Mr. Brokenshire needed to appoint a neutral chair to take charge of forthcoming talks geared towards restoring power-sharing.

“It’s clear now that any new talks process aimed at restoring power sharing must be chaired by an independent arbiter. We cannot undergo the same discussions with a new Secretary of State only to arrive at the same barriers.

“The new office holder should move quickly to appoint an independent chairperson and bring the parties together to resolve the challenges that remain. Our hospitals, schools and other public services are on the brink. It is critical that we get to work to seek a resolution now,” said Mr. Eastwood.