Page last updated at 17:11 GMT, Wednesday, 17 September 2008 18:11 UK

Chance of executive meeting fades


The prospect of the Stormont Executive formally meeting for the first time in three months looks increasingly remote.

Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness have exchanged letters disagreeing if fuel poverty can be dealt with in the absence of an executive meeting.

Sinn Féin wants more progress on the devolution of justice before agreeing to Thursday's meeting.

However, DUP leader Mr Robinson has warned of serious consequences if the executive fails to meet.

The deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin, suggested that a fuel poverty package proposed by Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie could easily be approved.

This package would include a £200 cut in electricity bills for tens of thousands of vulnerable households.

However, Mr Robinson insisted the scheme should be discussed by ministers at an executive meeting on Thursday.

The first minister said Mr McGuinness's suggestion was not a valid use of the "urgent procedure for executive decision".

According to BBC Northern Ireland political editor Mark Devenport, "it looks like the blame game beginning even before tomorrow's deadline has been breached.

"This exchange of letters won't raise hopes that last minute efforts by party officials to broker a compromise are making progress."

In the absence of any formal executive meeting, it is believed DUP, Ulster Unionist and SDLP ministers will gather for informal discussions about the cost of living.

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