US

Gary Hart, new US envoy to Northern Ireland, begins talks with leaders on disputes

  • The newly appointed U.S. envoy to Northern Ireland, former Sen. Gary Hart, right, and Alasdair McDonnell, leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, pose for photographers outside Parliament Buildings, Stormont, in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014. Hart is scheduled to meet the leaders of all five parties in Northern Ireland’s unity government Wednesday and Thursday. Hart is seeking to broker compromise on a wide range of issues threatening to tear apart the 7-year-old coalition of British Protestants and Irish Catholics. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

    The newly appointed U.S. envoy to Northern Ireland, former Sen. Gary Hart, right, and Alasdair McDonnell, leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, pose for photographers outside Parliament Buildings, Stormont, in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014. Hart is scheduled to meet the leaders of all five parties in Northern Ireland’s unity government Wednesday and Thursday. Hart is seeking to broker compromise on a wide range of issues threatening to tear apart the 7-year-old coalition of British Protestants and Irish Catholics. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)  (The Associated Press)

  • The newly appointed U.S. envoy to Northern Ireland, former Sen. Gary Hart arrives at Parliament Buildings, Stormont, in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014. Hart is scheduled to meet the leaders of all five parties in Northern Ireland’s unity government Wednesday and Thursday. Hart is seeking to broker compromise on a wide range of issues threatening to tear apart the 7-year-old coalition of British Protestants and Irish Catholics. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

    The newly appointed U.S. envoy to Northern Ireland, former Sen. Gary Hart arrives at Parliament Buildings, Stormont, in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014. Hart is scheduled to meet the leaders of all five parties in Northern Ireland’s unity government Wednesday and Thursday. Hart is seeking to broker compromise on a wide range of issues threatening to tear apart the 7-year-old coalition of British Protestants and Irish Catholics. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)  (The Associated Press)

  • The newly appointed U.S. envoy to Northern Ireland, former Sen. Gary Hart, right, is greeted by Alasdair McDonnell, leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party as he arrives at Parliament Buildings, Stormont, in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014. Hart is scheduled to meet the leaders of all five parties in Northern Ireland’s unity government Wednesday and Thursday. Hart is seeking to broker compromise on a wide range of issues threatening to tear apart the 7-year-old coalition of British Protestants and Irish Catholics. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

    The newly appointed U.S. envoy to Northern Ireland, former Sen. Gary Hart, right, is greeted by Alasdair McDonnell, leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party as he arrives at Parliament Buildings, Stormont, in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014. Hart is scheduled to meet the leaders of all five parties in Northern Ireland’s unity government Wednesday and Thursday. Hart is seeking to broker compromise on a wide range of issues threatening to tear apart the 7-year-old coalition of British Protestants and Irish Catholics. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)  (The Associated Press)

The new U.S. envoy to Northern Ireland has kicked off talks with local political leaders aimed at helping smooth a new round of power-sharing negotiations among the government's five-party coalition.

Gary Hart, a former U.S. senator, is seeking to broker compromise on a wide range of issues threatening to tear apart the 7-year-old coalition of British Protestants and Irish Catholics.

Hart, who was appointed by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to the post, said Wednesday Northern Ireland's institutions faced major challenges despite progress made in the past two decades.

Britain convened the Belfast talks in hopes of narrowing many divisions among the parties on contentious issues including sectarian parades and the display of British and Irish symbols.