Stormont’s Deputy First Minister has expressed optimism Northern Ireland’s power sharing government can be saved and returned to “good working order”.
Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness reiterated his hope that cross party talks to resolve a crisis sparked by an IRA-linked murder will begin on Monday.
The mandatory coalition Executive in Belfast is teetering on the verge of collapse, with all but one of its unionist ministers having walked out over the shooting of former IRA member Kevin McGuigan.
Police said current members of the IRA were involved in shooting the 53-year-old father-of-nine last month, in a suspected revenge attack for the murder of former IRA commander Gerard “Jock” Davison in Belfast three months earlier.
That assessment has shone the spotlight on Sinn Féin and exerted pressure on the republican party to explain why security chiefs assess that the supposedly defunct paramilitary organisation is still in existence.
Uncertainty continues to hang over proposed crisis talks, with unionists having demanded UK Government action on paramilitaries, potentially with the establishment of a new monitoring body, before they start negotiations.
While neither the Democratic Unionists or Ulster Unionists have confirmed they will take their place at the table in Stormont House on Monday, Mr McGuinness said he was “cautiously optimistic” the talks would start.
He made the comments at a Sinn Féin event focusing on the current migrant crisis across Europe.
“I do think, as the eternal optimist of the peace process, that we will shortly resolve our difficulties, that we will have an executive back in place, in good working order, and we will have an Assembly doing its job,” he said.
The UUP has quit the faltering administration in Belfast and the DUP has pulled four of its five ministers out.
Sinn Féin insists the IRA has gone away and has accused the two unionist parties of contriving a crisis for electoral gain.