Page last updated at 11:06 GMT, Thursday, 4 September 2008 12:06 UK

Impasse talks useful, say parties

Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson
Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson lead their party delegations

Sinn Féin and the DUP have described two hours of talks aimed at breaking the political deadlock as "useful".

Northern Ireland's Executive has not met over the summer with rows over delays in devolving policing powers.

The DUP has said it wants clarity the IRA's ruling 'army council' has gone and SF have questioned the the DUP's commitment to partnership government.

In a statement the parties said talks would continue "in the coming days and weeks".

The British and Irish governments said they were satisfied with Wednesday's independent report, which found the IRA's army council serves no function.

However, the DUP wants more clarity from the republican leadership.

First and deputy first ministers Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness lead the DUP and Sinn Féin teams for the meetings on Thursday.

Stormont Castle
The talks took place at Stormont Castle

The foundations for power-sharing between the DUP and Sinn Féin were laid at the St Andrews political deal of 2006, and the British and Irish governments identified May of this year as a target date for the transfer of justice powers.

But the DUP has insisted it will not budge until the circumstances are right. Sinn Féin has threatened to pull its ministers out of the Stormont cabinet if progress is not made soon.

'Leadership relinquished'

In a report this week the Independent Monitoring Commission, which monitors Northern Ireland's paramilitary ceasefires, said the IRA had relinquished the leadership and structures it used during the Troubles.

It said it did not expect an announcement from the IRA that the army council will disband.

In response, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the report would "provide reassurance and hope for everybody who wants to see this chapter of Northern Ireland's history closed".

"In the next few days, I will use all my efforts, working with the parties in Northern Ireland, to make sure that the devolution of policing and justice can go ahead and the final stages of the peace process will now be completed," he said.

However, Northern Ireland's first minister, the DUP leader Peter Robinson, said the unionist community "needs to be convinced by the republican leadership that the IRA is out of business for good".

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said: "The issue of the IRA has been dealt with definitively - all concerns have been met (and) this issue is gone."

IRA no threat says prime minister
03 Sep 08 |  Northern Ireland
IMC report - political reaction
03 Sep 08 |  Northern Ireland
IRA council 'serves no function'
03 Sep 08 |  Northern Ireland
Alliance role in stand-off talks
30 Aug 08 |  Northern Ireland
Stormont must meet warns Robinson
26 Aug 08 |  Northern Ireland
SF threatens to collapse assembly
24 Aug 08 |  Northern Ireland
Scale of justice job 'daunting'
20 Aug 08 |  Northern Ireland


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