Page last updated at 10:49 GMT, Saturday, 23 January 2010

Sinn Fein leadership discusses DUP talks collapse

Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams
Sinn Fein's ruling executive will review what was discussed at Stormont

Sinn Fein's leadership is discussing its next move later after intense negotiations with the DUP collapsed.

After talks between the parties on transferring justice powers from London to Belfast ended in acrimony, its ruling executive will meet in Dublin.

It is thought the British and Irish governments may have to intervene in talks on finishing what is seen as the last piece of the devolution jigsaw.

All-party talks involving the SDLP, UUP and Alliance have also been suggested.

Possible resignation

Sinn Fein's ruling executive, or ard comhairle, is faced with three options at Saturday's meeting.

It could announce the resignation of Martin McGuinness as Northern Ireland's deputy first minister, set a deadline that he will withdraw by a specified date unless policing and justice is resolved, or call on the British and Irish governments to intervene.

Ahead of the meeting, party vice president Mary Lou McDonald said: "We have said all along that we are in this to make the St Andrew's Agreement come into effect to ensure the institutions work - that is the Sinn Fein position.

"But this needs to be dialogue with a purpose, there needs to be product at the end of it.

"So today our ard comhairle will consider in very great detail what has emerged and we will consider the further steps in this process."

'Process endangered'

On Friday, DUP leader Peter Robinson - first minister in Northern Ireland's power-sharing government - said he was surprised by Sinn Fein's announcement that they considered the talks to be over.

Brian Cowen and Gordon Brown
Brian Cowen and Gordon Brown could be called on to intervene

Mr Robinson said he felt some progress had been made, adding: "Anyone who steps away from the table at this stage endangers the whole process."

The issue of Orange Order parades has been a sticking point for the two parties.

Sinn Fein has resisted DUP efforts to replace the body which adjudicates on contentious marches, the Parades Commission, with an alternative along the lines of interim proposals produced by a group headed by Lord Ashdown.

In Gerry Adams' blog post where he said the "game was up, but not over", he said: "They want the scrapping of the Parades Commission and progress on the ground - in other words marches through Catholic areas."

As Sinn Fein meets in Dublin, delegates attending the cross-community Alliance Party's conference in Antrim will be addressed by its leader David Ford, the man tipped by some as a possible future justice minister at Stormont.

Also on Saturday, the Ulster Unionist Party's executive will hear a progress report from party leader Sir Reg Empey, where activists will also be given details about last weekend's meeting in England involving the DUP and the Conservatives.

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