Leaders to continue bid to salvage power sharing

Leaders to continue bid to salvage power sharing

Democratic Unionist leader Peter Robinson will resume negotiations with Sinn Féin today as he tries to convince sceptics within his own party of the merits of a deal to save power sharing in the North.

While both parties are understood to have agreed the outline of a potential settlement, it is understood Mr Robinson has yet to secure full backing for the proposals from his rank and file assembly members.

A breakthrough in the long-running wrangle over the stalled devolution of justice powers was thought to be imminent yesterday, with both Taoiseach Brian Cowen and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on standby to travel to the region to mark the agreement.

But the process was hit with a further delay when it emerged that some DUP members had raised concerns with their leadership during a full day of closed-door briefings at Stormont.

Last night Mr Robinson emerged from the exchanges to reveal his party was not yet ready to agree a deal.

“The (party) group has identified, because the negotiations have not been completed, some issues that have to be resolved and items about which they need to be satisfied,” he said.

It was the latest hitch in talks which have been running for more than a week at Hillsborough Castle, Co Down, aimed at resolving an impasse on the devolving law and order powers from Westminster to Stormont.

A DUP demand for changes to how contentious Orange Order parades are managed remains one of the main sticking points.

Mr Robinson and senior party colleagues left Stormont to return to Hillsborough last night to continue talks with Sinn Féin and the British and Irish governments.

The discussions again went on late into the night and were due to restart today.

Mr Robinson indicated his party wanted to see the devolved political institutions work.

“The process is one that we have committed ourselves to as a political party,” he said.

A Sinn Féin meeting to brief its assembly members yesterday morning lasted just over 90 minutes.

The party’s junior minister Gerry Kelly insisted last night that an agreement was still within reach.

“We are confident we can make the deal,” the senior republican said at Parliament Buildings.

“There are a few issues which need to be sorted out.”

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