Northern Ireland

NI talks: Parties seeking £2bn in loans and funding for Stormont

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Media captionNorthern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers: "Progress has been made"

The five main parties at Stormont have asked the government for £2bn in loans and extra funding over a 10-year period, the BBC understands.

The secretary of state said Downing Street and the Treasury were now considering the proposal.

The news comes after it emerged that the five parties agreed proposals to break the deadlock on welfare reform.

The parties want to improve Stormont's borrowing powers and are seeking to have welfare penalties written off.

Northern Ireland is having to pay the penalties to the Treasury for not implementing the welfare reforms passed by Westminster in February 2013.

The BBC also understands that the document passed to the government includes a request for cash to pay for bodies that would examine the past.

The parties have also asked for a peace investment fund.

The talks, which have been going on for 10 weeks, are aimed at resolving disputes over flags, parades, the legacy of the Troubles and welfare.

Image caption The Northern Ireland Executive parties have been involved in 10 weeks of talks at the Stormont estate

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers said the talks were at a "crunch point".

She would not go into the detail of the proposals, but said the government was looking "very seriously" at the paper submitted by the five parties.

"There does seem to have been a degree of progress between the parties," she said.

"Our response is going to have to take into account the deficit that we inherited and the limited resources we have."

Ms Villiers said there were no plans for David Cameron to return to Northern Ireland before Christmas

Earlier, Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness said there had been a "step change" in the talks.

The deputy first minister tweeted: "Our team focussed but more to do."

Negotiators from the five executive parties have been holding the latest round of talks in Stormont Castle.

Sinn Féin has refused to implement welfare reform in Northern Ireland and a paper from the party earlier in the week was dismissed as being unrealistic and unaffordable by other political parties.

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