Northern leaders expected to break deadlock on devolution
Published 01/02/2010 | 05:00
SINN Fein and the DUP are finally expected to strike a deal today to allow policing powers to be transferred to the North.
The epic talks on the devolution of policing and justice will enter their second week this morning when the parties return to Hillsborough Castle.
But hopes were high last night that the deadlock would finally be broken.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown were in contact a number of times over the course of the weekend.
If a deal is done, the two leaders will most likely head to Belfast again to sign off.
Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin and Northern Secretary Shaun Woodward will again chair the talks this morning.
Mr Cowen's trip to Madrid this lunchtime to meet Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero about the forthcoming EU summit was still scheduled to go ahead. But the Taoiseach is available to assist with the talks if required.
The issue of contentious parades remained the stumbling block in the talks, but both sides were reporting progress over the course of the weekend.
Sinn Fein's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he hoped a deal could be reached.
He said wanted to move forward on the basis of partnership and equality between nationalists and unionists, but said there had been "significant progress" in the marathon talks.
Mr McGuinness said: "We have made significant progress. Institutions which don't deliver are worthless and something I will not be involved in.
"I now hope we have a basis upon which nationalists, republicans, unionists and loyalists will move forward together on the basis of partnership and equality."
DUP negotiator Sammy Wilson, the North's finance minister, said he also thought the parties were closer than they were last week.
Mr McGuinness was addressing the annual Bloody Sunday commemoration march in Derry, where he called for a report into the killings to be published without delay.
The findings of the £200m (e230m) Saville Inquiry are due in March.
A total of 14 people died after soldiers from the British army's parachute regiment opened fire on civil rights protesters in January 1972 in the bogside area of Derry.
Maurice Hayes: page 27