'Considerable progress' in Ulster negotiations

A deal to save Northern Ireland's powersharing government was in sight today after "considerable progress" was made in securing the transfer of policing and justice powers from London to Belfast.

Talks ended last night without agreement but hopes were mounting that a deal could be struck when negotiations resume tomorrow.

Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward said: "We have made, across six very long days I think, considerable progress. There remains work to be done."

Irish Taoiseach Brian Cowen and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown launched the dialogue at Hillsborough Castle, Co Down, on Monday.

Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionists disagreed over a solution for dealing with loyal order parades.

The governments threatened to publish their own proposals to break the deadlock.

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin praised the parties. "They are engaging, in our view, in a way that is purposeful and with determination to resolve the issues."

Sinn Fein negotiator Conor Murphy said: "We are maybe getting somewhere now. We have progress made, we are hopeful that we can finish this fairly quickly.

"We are getting towards that point now where negotiations will end."

Democratic Unionist Edwin Poots said: "There is considerable advancement, what I said previously was that there would have to be certainty and clarity and there would appear to be greater certainty and clarity than was the case when I was speaking on Thursday night."

Nationalist SDLP Assembly member Alex Attwood said: "Our sense is that those negotiations continue to move forward steadily and in a positive fashion."

The key sticking point was a DUP demand for the abolition of the Parades Commission, which adjudicates on contentious marches, and instead leave it to an independent panel, appointed by the office of the First and Deputy First Minister, to arbitrate. But they also insisted they are open to alternative proposals on parades.

Mr Brown and Mr Cowen failed to secure a deal before leaving the venue on Wednesday. They want the two sides to agree a process to transfer the powers from London to Belfast by the start of May.

There were new disclosures earlier this week of more secret talks between Democratic Unionist leader Peter Robinson and Sir Reg Empey's Ulster Unionist Party, under the auspices of the Orange Order, in an attempt to agree a unionist unity electoral pact.

If there was no deal there was a possibility Sinn Fein would walk away, collapsing the powersharing executive and triggering new Stormont elections.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?