Deadline looms in Northern Ireland

Stormont powersharing under threat
Stormont powersharing under threat

By staff

Last-ditch talks to rescue Northern Ireland's powersharing agreement appear to have met with failure, as the deadline for a deal nears.

Gordon Brown and Irish taoiseach Brian Cowen gave Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist party (DUP) 48 hours on Wednesday to come up with an agreement on the devolution of policing and justice powers.

That deadline is now due to run out, despite talks continuing throughout the night at Hillsborough Castle outside Belfast.

The political crisis has attracted significant attention from overseas, with the United States' envoy to Northern Ireland, Declan Kelly, attending. Secretary of state Hillary Clinton has been kept informed.

"The reality is the failure to resolve these problems does not lie with Sinn Fein. We've come at this stage with a problem-solving mode," Sinn Fein's deputy first minister Martin McGuinness said.

Peter Robinson, the DUP's first minister, said: "I think we've shown over the last few days we're not prepared to buy a pig in a poke."

Mr Brown is expected to fly back to Northern Ireland later to carry out his threatened publication of joint proposals by the British and Irish governments.


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