Page last updated at 09:36 GMT, Sunday, 24 January 2010

DUP 'is ready for policing talks'

Gerry Adams: "This is not a game of poker"

Behind the scenes contacts are expected to try to arrange a meeting between Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson, over the issue of policing and justice.

Sinn Fein asked for the meeting after its leaders met in Dublin on Saturday to discuss the deadlock in talks.

The DUP's Jeffrey Donaldson has said his party would be ready to move forward on Monday.

"I think it's time that they calmed down a bit and let's engage to resolve the outstanding issues," he said.

Failed to appear

"We remain at the table ready and willing to discuss those issues and move the process forward."

Mr Donaldson said that Sinn Fein hadn't turned up for talks "on a number of occasions" during the past week.

On Saturday, Sinn Fein said Mr McGuinness, Northern Ireland's deputy first minister, would seek an urgent meeting with the leader of the DUP over the devolution of policing and justice.

Mark Simpson
Mark Simpson, BBC Ireland correspondent
If Sinn Fein eventually end up walking away from Stormont, it will go down in history as the long goodbye.

Before Christmas, they made it clear they were unhappy; they did so again immediately after Christmas; and now they have warned once more that the Stormont Assembly may be unsustainable.

In spite of these concerns, they are still there. And they will be back round the negotiating table with the DUP leader Peter Robinson on Monday.

So are they bluffing? Is Martin McGuinness really prepared to resign as deputy first minister and trigger an Assembly election? We will find out soon.

The difficulty for both parties is that the problems they failed to sort out last week are the very same problems they face this week.

The only thing that might change is that the British and Irish prime ministers might fly in to Stormont to help.

They may need to bring with them a political magic wand.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said the meeting between Mr McGuinness and NI's First Minister, Peter Robinson, would be "defining and critical".

But he stopped short of saying the party was pulling Mr McGuinness out of the power-sharing Stormont Executive.

The meeting of the party's executive came after the intensive talks it had held with the DUP over the past two weeks ended in acrimony.

Unsustainable institutions

Addressing the media in Dublin on Saturday, Mr Adams accused the DUP of failing to honour its obligations under the terms of the 2006 St Andrews Agreement.

He warned that if the Northern Ireland institutions were not working as they were supposed to, they would become unsustainable.

He said the British and Irish governments must act not as referees in the talks process, but as "guarantors, with responsibilities and obligations".

Mr Adams added: "What we are about is fixing the problems and returning to the basis upon which these institutions were established - the Good Friday Agreement and St Andrews Agreement.

"If that is not possible then no self-respecting public representative or political party would want to be part of what would be nothing less than a charade."

Resignation threat

Sinn Fein and the DUP - the two biggest political parties in Northern Ireland - have been arguing for months over the transfer of policing and justice powers from Westminster to Stormont.

Sinn Fein want the completion of devolution to happen as soon as possible, but the DUP have argued that there must be "community confidence" before the powers are put in the hands of local politicians.

If Sinn Fein was to decide that Martin McGuinness should resign, the joint nature of the roles of first and deputy first ministers would mean that Peter Robinson would also be forced out of office.

If there were no agreed re-appointments to the posts within seven days, an assembly election would have to be called.

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