The nationalist SDLP has warned that there is no sign that the British government will not cave into the hardline unionist DUP, which is demanding major changes to the 1998 Good Friday peace Agreement.
The SDLP’s Alex Attwood said “government on DUP terms is a no go area”.
“British officials gave little reassurance that the core values and practices of the Good Friday Agreement are still not up for grabs,” he said.
Mr Attwood expressed concern that, in what he described as “this last lap of negotiation” that the British government was still not saying if the DUP would commit to the proper working and early development of north-south government.
“This is a key test for the DUP,” Mr Attwood said.
After suggesting a deal was imminent on Tuesday, the Dublin and London governments have made a more cautious assessment about progress after admitting there are still “very difficult” issues in bridging the gap between Sinn Féin and the DUP.
British Direct Ruler Paul Murphy referred to difficult and tricky issues that remain in attempting to restore devolved government.
But he said that there was “a mood of willingness and understanding” among the parties, given that it was the second anniversary of the suspension of the institutions in the North following the ‘Bogusgate’ police raid at the Belfast Assembly.
“For two years, direct rule has been operating in Northern Ireland,” he said.
“But I want to shed that as soon as I possibly can so that local politicians can take decisions locally.”
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has said there is “still a mountain to climb for Ian Paisley’s party”.
In an article this week, Mr Adams said: “Sinn Féin is leaving no stone unturned in our effort to bring about a breakthrough.
“The big question arising from (British and Irish) ministers’ remarks is what they do if there is not a breakthrough. How long must we wait for the DUP to come into the real world?.”
Mr Adams said the DUP was seeking changes in the agreement which would alter its fundamentals.
“The governments have ruled this out and I hope they are serious about this. But I have concerns, not least because both governments have tampered with the agreement already,” he said.
“The suspension of the institutions is one example of this. The power which a British minister now has, contrary to the agreement, to take action against Irish political parties is another.”
The Sinn Féin president reiterated that the IRA was unlikely to move for less than the Good Friday Agreement.
PSNI MAN STRUCK
A member of the PSNI was struck by a driver who failed to stop at a British checkpoint close to the Border in South Armagh.
A car with a Southern registration sped North through the checkpoint on the Concession Road in Crossmaglen, South Armagh, striking and injuring the border guard.
The driver abandoned the car and made off in another vehicle, which was reported stolen.