Fresh hopes for power-sharing as O'Neill reveals talks with DUP
Despite a week of negative bluster, Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party have signalled that, after all, they may be just days away from talks on re-establishing power-sharing in Belfast.
On the final day of the Sinn Féin party pre-Dáil conference in Co Meath, the party's Northern Ireland leader, Michelle O'Neill, revealed that the two parties have been in talks despite their public political jousting.
She signalled that compromise might be possible and real talks, involving the two main parties and other groups, could start soon.
"The Sinn Féin and DUP leaderships have for more than a week now been engaged in intensified dialogue to determine whether political progress is possible," Ms O'Neill said.
"We do believe progress is possible and are therefore ready to re-engage in formal negotiations together, and with the other parties and both governments, to try and reach agreement in a short, sharp and focused negotiation," she added.
Ms O'Neill also took the offensive against her party critics, especially Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.
She said progress was possible on the power-sharing stalemate, which has continued since last January.
"This process should begin immediately," Ms O'Neill said.
DUP leader Arlene Foster said engagement with Sinn Féin has stepped up over the last week and there has been detailed engagement over a number of days to assess if a deal is possible. "We intend to continue with a further series of bilaterals with all of the other parties to determine whether agreement can be reached in the short time available," she said.