Page last updated at 03:31 GMT, Thursday, 18 September 2008 04:31 UK

Stormont set to stay deadlocked

Informal discussions between DUP, UUP and SDLP ministers will take place

Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson's deadline for breaking the three-month deadlock at Stormont looks set to pass without ministers meeting.

The executive has not met over the summer, as Sinn Féin insists on more progress over devolving justice powers.

The DUP leader last month warned of "serious consequences" if the executive failed to meet on this day.

All that seems likely to happen is a series of informal discussions on how to combat the rising cost of living.

It had been thought Prime Minister Gordon Brown's visit to Belfast on Tuesday may have helped to broker a truce, but hopes of a breakthrough faded on Wednesday.


It followed an exchange of letters between Mr Robinson and Martin McGuinness, disagreeing about whether a fuel poverty package could be approved in the absence of the executive meeting.

The package, proposed by Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie, would include a £200 cut in electricity bills for tens of thousands of vulnerable households.

Mr McGuinness said they could invite the SDLP minister to submit her paper "under urgent procedure," but Mr Robinson insisted this was not a valid use of the facility and it should be discussed at the executive meeting.

According to BBC Northern Ireland political editor Mark Devenport, it is possible the problems could be resolved next week.

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