SF 'peddling doom and gloom' on Stormont
A senior Democratic Unionist negotiator has accused Sinn Féin of peddling "doom and gloom" misinformation about the state of talks.
Jeffrey Donaldson claimed the republican party was misleading the public after Michelle O'Neill, its leader in the North, delivered a bleak assessment of the ongoing negotiations.
On day three of the two-week process, Mrs O'Neill claimed a deal to rescue the crisis-hit devolved institutions could only be achieved with a "step change" in approach from the DUP and the UK government.
Mr Donaldson responded in robust terms, questioning whether Sinn Féin actually wanted to reach agreement.
"I very much regret that Sinn Féin seems to be the doom and gloom merchant, falsely accusing other parties of not engaging," he said.
"DUP and the government and the other parties have attended every meeting, have been actively engaging and we believe all of the parties are actively engaged," the Lagan Valley MP added. "In fact the only party who we believe has been holding back in these discussions is Sinn Féin."
Earlier, Mrs O'Neill said while there had been numerous meetings involving the Irish and UK governments and Stormont's five main parties, the discussions were not producing results.
"We have seen no progress to date - nothing that we could report that's anything significant," she said.
Northern Ireland Secretary of State James Brokenshire instigated the 10-day talks initiative after last month's negotiations to form a new powersharing administration had ended in failure.
Parties have already missed a deadline to get a government up and running within three weeks of March's snap Assembly election.
Devolution crashed in January over a row about a botched green energy scheme.
Two of the main stumbling blocks in the way of a successful outcome are the contentious issues of Irish language protections, and how to deal with the toxic legacy of the Troubles.