Optimism at last over N. Ireland deal

By politics.co.uk staff

A sense of optimism settled on the protracted justice and policing negotiations in Northern Ireland today, as hopes were raised of a deal emerging early this week.

The deadline set by Gordon Brown and Irish prime minister Brian Cowen for a Friday deal was allowed to pass, leading many commentators to assume that enough progress had been made to satisfy the two men.

Yesterday, deputy first minister Martin McGuinness said “considerable progress” had been made. It was a marked improvement from his comments early last week, which appeared so angry many believed he was on the verge of resigning.

Talks aimed at saving the power-sharing agreement will resume at Hillsborough Castle later on today, after negotiators spent Sunday relaxing following a gruelling week of marathon negotiations.

Division over the proposals takes the form primarily of concerns over timing and the parades. Sinn Fein wants the power over justice and policing handed over immediately while the Democratic Unionist party wants a more cautious timetable which would pay more attention to “community confidence” among unionists.