Page last updated at 16:10 GMT, Sunday, 14 September 2008 17:10 UK

O'Dowd warns not enough progress

Stormont

A senior Sinn Féin member has warned that talks with the DUP have not seen enough progress for Thursday's planned meeting of the executive to go ahead.

The Stormont Executive has not met over the summer months, amid rows about delays in devolving justice powers.

MLA John O'Dowd said: "What we want is a partnership government. To hold an executive meeting in the absence of that is only playing to the optics."

Prime Minister Gordon Brown is to meet NI politicians in Belfast on Tuesday.

DUP leader Peter Robinson last month warned of "serious consequences" if the Executive meeting does not take place on Thursday.

He was reacting to remarks by Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin that his party would collapse the assembly unless there was progress on the devolution of policing and justice.

His colleague Mr O'Dowd told the BBC's Politics Show on Sunday: "The final decision rests with the joint ministers of Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson, but in my opinion I do not believe there has been enough progress made towards partnership government for an executive meeting this week."

However, the Sinn Féin assembly member added that he hoped progress could be made in the coming days.

'Crisis situation'

DUP junior minister Jeffrey Donaldson insisted progress had been made, such as last month's announcement of an agreed format for a new justice ministry, with a single minister to lead a single department, rather than a joint office.

"For some reason that I cannot understand, after that agreement Sinn Féin then set about creating a crisis situation that no-one out there wants," he said.

"We cannot afford a crisis - there are elderly people who cannot afford a loaf of bread, never mind afford a crisis."

Meanwhile, the SDLP's social development minister, Margaret Ritchie, said Sinn Féin had created a "bogus crisis" which must end.

"I have been trying to get important housing and welfare proposals through the executive for some months, but Sinn Féin has stopped all executive meetings," she said.

"I have also been working all summer on urgent proposals to alleviate fuel poverty this winter.

"It is absolutely essential that the fuel poverty package is considered at the executive meeting scheduled for this Thursday - Sinn Féin must let that meeting take place."


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