Page last updated at 12:06 GMT, Saturday, 6 September 2008 13:06 UK

Stormont deadlock 'can be broken'

Shaun Woodward
Shaun Woodward said he was optimistic a breakthrough could happen

Sinn Féin and the DUP can overcome their difficulties and break the deadlock at Stormont, Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward has said.

A report published earlier this week by the Independent Monitoring Commission, which monitors ceasefires, found the IRA 'army council' served no function.

Mr Woodward said there was a window of opportunity to make political progress.

The two parties are working through their differences over devolution of justice and other issues, he added.

"Some of these issues have been tackled and a number remain to be tackled, but as I understand it, the parties are carefully working through them," he said.

"I am optimistic, because what this really comes back to is whether the politicians want to make it work.

"I believe they do, but it is up to them now to prove that they can."

Delays

Northern Ireland's Executive has not met over the summer, amid rows surrounding delays in devolving policing powers to Stormont.

The DUP has said it wants clarity that the IRA's ruling 'army council' has gone, while Sinn Fein have questioned the DUP's commitment to partnership government.

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

Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey predicted that there would be "a few weeks of chest beating" which would be followed by talks and a deal on the issue.

"Sadly, we are back in the same mode where politicians were demanding such things as photographs of decommissioning or the return of the Northern Bank money, neither of which happened, although power sharing with Sinn Féin did," he said.

"There will be a few weeks of chest beating, followed by talks in London, followed by a deal.

"I think Secretary of State Shaun Woodward has got people's measure on this as he said earlier."




SEE ALSO
Impasse talks useful, say parties
04 Sep 08 |  Northern Ireland
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
Scale of justice job 'daunting'
20 Aug 08 |  Northern Ireland

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