Page last updated at 17:45 GMT, Friday, 22 January 2010

Robinson 'surprised' at Sinn Fein saying talks are over

Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness
Mr Robinson said he was disappointed by remarks made by Sinn Fein

DUP leader Peter Robinson has said he was "surprised" at Sinn Fein announcing the end of their current round of talks on devolving justice powers.

Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey said the party's leadership meeting in Dublin on Saturday would map the way forward.

It is believed Sinn Fein will discuss whether to withdraw Martin McGuinness from his role as deputy first minister.

Mr Robinson said: "Anyone who steps away from the table at this stage endangers the whole process."

"I felt some progress had been made in the last number of days and I'm very disappointed at the remarks that have been made," he said.

Mark Devenport

Mark Devenport, BBC NI political editor

Peter Robinson is saying he is still ready to talk, but it is hard to imagine them going back to these cosy Sinn Fein/DUP talks.

You've got Sinn Fein accusing the DUP, essentially, of bad faith.

Both Mr Robinson and some of the other parties, the SDLP and Ulster Unionists, seem to be talking more now about negotiations involving all the parties.

Although Mr Robinson said it would be better if the local parties could sort their problems out themselves, I get the sense that he would be open to government intervention, maybe as soon as next week.

In his blog, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said the "game was up, but not over".

"The failure of the DUP thus far to come up to the plate during the current round of negotiations shouldn't come as any great surprise," he said.

"They want the scrapping of the Parades Commission and progress on the ground - in other words marches through Catholic areas."

He accused the DUP of "looking over their shoulder" at hardline unionist Jim Allister, whose TUV party opposes power-sharing with Sinn Fein.

The DUP and Sinn Fein last met on Wednesday. This was followed on Thursday by recriminations about whether they were due to continue the Stormont talks as Sinn Fein's party officers met.

On Friday, Mr Robinson said he was "frustrated" that they had failed to make more progress.

"The nature of negotiations is that one party can't sit down and say 'time is running short, it's about time you came to our position'.

"Negotiations are about getting accommodation, working out a way that is suitable to all parties."

Mr Robinson said he did not know what to expect from Saturday's meeting of Sinn Fein's party executive, or Ard Comhairle.

"Every day is a surprise for me - I don't need any more excitement in my life at the moment," he said.

He said they were remaining calm and hoped the two parties could "get down to business on Monday".

Other parties

Asked about the prospect of prime ministers Gordon Brown and Brian Cowen becoming involved, he said: "I agreed with Gerry Adams when he said to me it is much better if we can deal with these issues ourselves.

"The other political parties should be part of this process, particularly if we are trying to get community support and encouraging people to support the devolution of policing and justice.

"If we are stuck and can't move forward, facilitation becomes a necessity."

Meanwhile, the SDLP's Alex Attwood said "all-party talks are the best way forward".

He was speaking after an SDLP delegation met Mr McGuinness on Friday.

Alliance Party leader David Ford said politicians needed to "grow up and reach an accommodation".

He said there was an urgent need for all parties to work together and that the political process was "sliding towards a crisis".

Also on Friday, the Shadow Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, spoke publicly for the first time about last weekend's secret talks involving the Ulster Unionists and the DUP.

The Conservative MP denied the discussions were about unionists' role in a potential hung parliament and insisted his party were not about to endorse an electoral pact with the DUP.

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