Page last updated at 22:57 GMT, Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Party totally behind leader on policing issues - DUP

Peter Robinson (right) with Ian Paisley and Nigel Dodds
DUP leader Peter Robinson put proposals to his assembly team

The DUP has given "total support" to its leadership on outstanding issues over the devolution of justice powers, deputy leader Nigel Dodds has said.

However Mr Dodds did not deny a BBC report that 14 MLAs voted against the Hillsborough proposals in a secret ballot on Monday.

He said Peter Robinson was a "first class unionist leader" who enjoyed "full support" of the party.

The talks at Hillsborough Castle have been continuing into Tuesday night.

They are likely to go on until the end of the week.

Earlier, Prime Minister Gordon Brown phoned Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey, as his support for any deal is seen as critical.

Mr Brown told him the deal addressed UUP concerns about the "dysfunctionality" of the Executive.

However, he also told him that if the deal failed to win agreement and the Executive fell as a result, the government would call a snap assembly election rather than just suspending the institutions.


An internal DUP meeting on Monday was said to have been stormy, with a secret ballot ending in a 60/40 split in favour of the deal.

Mr Dodds said "speculation and innuendo" was being peddled by "some sections of the media". He denied some members had threatened to resign.

Talks between his party and Sinn Fein appeared to end early afternoon on Tuesday, when the DUP negotiating team left Hillsborough.

The DUP's Sammy Wilson declined to comment on whether or not there were party divisions at his party's meeting on Monday.

martina purdy
Martina Purdy, BBC NI political correspondent

It's clear that DUP leader Peter Robinson faces difficult and protracted discussions.

Not all the Stormont team attended Monday's meeting, but it is believed 14 assembly members rejected the proposals.

Feelings ran high around the parading proposals, amid claims they hadn't been pinned down.

There is little optimism that the deal can be rescued but efforts are continuing with further meetings between the DUP and Sinn Fein.

"You have within any organisation your internal discussions (and) when you reach conclusions which impact on the public, then you go out and you give the outcome of those conclusions and that's what we did yesterday," Mr Wilson said.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey said his party was satisfied that a deal could be concluded and "needed to be concluded quickly to build on progress".

Asked if Sinn Fein was under pressure from the two governments to facilitate the DUP, he said: "I don't believe we are under pressure from any quarter.

"Suffice to say that we fully understand that the people we all represent are very anxious that these institutions are stable, that they operate on the basis that everybody is an equal citizen and we do in here what we were elected to do."

Mr Maskey refused to be drawn on speculation about internal difficulties within the DUP.

Sinn Fein and the DUP have been arguing over the timing of the transfer of justice powers to Belfast.

Sinn Fein wants the powers transferred immediately.

The DUP has said that can only happen when there is "community confidence" among unionists.

The talks represent the longest period of sustained negotiations since the peace process began in the 1990s.

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