Talks to restore powersharing at Stormont should begin immediately following the murder of journalist Lyra McKee, the leader of the SDLP has said.
In a letter to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Prime Minister Theresa May, Colum Eastwood said there was an “unmistakable public desire that the tragic and terrible loss of Lyra McKee marks a turning point for our peace and political process”.
Colum Eastwood says Ms McKee's murder 'marks a turning point for our peace and political process'
He wrote: “I am therefore writing to all party leaders and to the two governments to urge that talks are convened this week in order to finally restore government in Northern Ireland.
“On the streets of Creggan, in Derry and across Ireland a clear and resolute message has been sent to Lyra’s killers and to all of those still wedded to the futility of violence.
“They are the enemies of all of us on this island and enemies of the shared future we have all chosen to build.”
DUP leader Arlene Foster and her Sinn Fein counterpart Mary Lou McDonald together attended a vigil in Creggan, Londonderry, after Ms McKee was killed, but they have not held political talks for months because of deep differences.
Sinn Fein is opposed to returning to devolved government until disputes like that over the ban on same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland are addressed.
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It is 21 years since the Good Friday Agreement but Mr Eastwood said people had become far too casual about the risk posed by political vacuum, and urged all politicians “to stop failing” and “start talking”.
It comes as two male teenagers, aged 18 and 19, arrested over the murder of Ms McKee, 29, were released without charge by the Police Service of Northern Ireland on Sunday night.
Detectives repeated an appeal for help from people living in Creggan, saying they needed “tangible evidence that will enable us to bring Lyra’s killers to justice”.
Ms McKee, 29, died after she was shot in the head by a member of the New IRA while she was observing rioting on Thursday.
Within 48 hours of her death, the republican group Saoradh – associated with the so-called New IRA – paraded down Dublin’s O’Connell Street.
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Mr Varadkar condemned the march saying the group’s actions were an “insult” to the Irish people and that they had dishonoured the Irish national flag.
He said: “The actions by Saoradh in Dublin this weekend are beneath contempt.
“People North and South are mourning the death of a brave campaigner and journalist, Lyra McKee.
“On Sunday we marked the heroes of 1916 who put Ireland on the path to democracy.
“Others like Saoradh want to return Ireland to a violent and troubled past. We can never allow this to happen. Saoradh should apologise for their actions this weekend.”
Republicans who embrace the peace process said their violent dissident counterparts were caught in a futile and antiquated time warp.
Death of journalist brings Irish communities together with a handshake
Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O’Neill said it was high time those involved in Lyra’s killing disbanded and ended their actions.
While addressing a commemoration of the Easter Rising battle for Irish independence in Londonderry on Sunday, she said: “Sadly, what we have here is a small number of people caught in a time warp who have self-appointed themselves to carry out actions which are pointless, anti-peace, anti-community and frankly, antiquated.
“The people who brought guns on to the street, and those who organised them do not represent any version of Irish republicanism.
“They have no politics, no strategy, and no popular support amongst the vast number of ordinary people from this city, or anywhere else in the country.”
A message of condolence for Ms McKee which has been graffittied on to the Free Derry Corner
Ms McKee’s funeral will be held at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast on Wednesday.
Her family have asked mourners to wear Harry Potter items, reflecting her love for the JK Rowling books.
A message of condolence for Ms McKee has been graffitied on to the landmark Free Derry Corner which says: “Not in our name. RIP Lyra.”