Northern Ireland

Peter Robinson says talks deal needed 'within 10 days'

Media captionPeter Robinson: "We are coming to the vital stage, the endgame"

Northern Ireland's parties need to reach a deal in the next 10 days or "there will be no agreement", First Minister Peter Robinson has said.

The five biggest parties have been in negotiations for almost six weeks about the budget, welfare reform as well as past and present paramilitary activity.

"We are coming to the vital stage, the endgame," said the DUP leader.

"It is my view that if we cannot reach agreement then the process itself will be terminated."

Mr Robinson said there was a "very significant responsibility on all those who are in leadership in Northern Ireland".

The story of Stormont's crisis

On Wednesday, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin said he believed a deal was "achievable", within a timeframe of "days, not weeks".

His colleague, North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly, said on Thursday that his party had concerns about the government's plans on dealing with the past.

"The British and Irish governments agreed at Stormont House on the need to provide justice and truth recovery mechanisms that would give disclosure to families of victims of the conflict," he added.

"The British government's legislation on dealing with the legacy of the past is in clear breach of that agreement."

Mr Kelly said Sinn Féin would not sign up to the proposed legislation "as it stands".

"Victims across the board deserve the truth and they deserve full disclosure," he added.

'Political snipers'

Earlier, Mr Robinson said there was a range of outstanding issues that were not yet resolved.

"I don't see any of them as being insurmountable, if there is goodwill on the part of the parties," he said.

"I believe it is possible for us to get a deal, but it does require leadership, it does require commitment and it does require all of the parties to stretch themselves."

The DUP leader described his critics as "the whingers, the wreckers, the political snipers who hope for failure" for their own benefit.

"It will not benefit anybody if in aggrandising themselves, they destroy our process here in Northern Ireland," he said.

"I look to all of those who genuinely want to get a way forward to ensure the next few days are meaningful in this talks process and that we try and close issues."

Image caption UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said his party would focus on the greater good

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said criticism of his party by Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness showed that its "firm and principled stand is irritating the two biggest parties who are clearly busting to do a side-deal at Stormont Castle".

Mr Nesbitt said his party would remain in the talks, "but we will not support handing out the begging bowl to London again".

He said the UUP would focus on the "greater good," adding: "We will stick in and do what is right for the people of Northern Ireland."

Secretary of State Theresa Villiers said she was "encouraged that the parties are continuing to engage intensively, but difficult issues remain".

"It is essential a successful conclusion is reached very soon - next week could be crucial to the success or failure of this process." she said.

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