Political leaders in the North are to resume talks to save powersharing at Stormont amid mounting optimism a deal is imminent.
With the main participants in the negotiation process having already agreed the outline of a settlement, it is understood a degree of progress on outstanding obstacles was made in late-night talks at Stormont House yesterday.
Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers had already told local leaders this week was “make your mind up time”.
The main outstanding bone of contention has been the issue of dealing with the legacy of the Troubles – in particular, an impasse involving Sinn Féin and the UK government over the prospect of some official documents not being disclosed, on national security grounds, to new truth-recovery bodies.
As a consequence, it is not clear whether any deal that does emerge will incorporate legacy matters.
Other disputes that have rocked Stormont, including an acute budgetary crisis linked to non-implementation of welfare reforms and the fallout from an IRA murder linked to the Provisional IRA, are set to be addressed in whatever settlement emerges.
The talks process in Belfast involving the five main Stormont parties and the British and Irish governments is in its 10th week.
While only DUP and Sinn Féin sign-off is required among the local parties to implement any settlement, they both would ideally like the endorsement of Stormont’s three other main players – the SDLP, Ulster Unionists and Alliance Party – to add greater legitimacy.
The UUP, which walked out of the coalition Executive in protest at the IRA-linked murder, is viewed as the least likely of those three to sign up.
The SDLP has insisted it will not sign up to a bad deal.