Northern Ireland

Stormont talks: DUP's Simon Hamilton in 'no doubt' deal will be agreed

The DUP's Simon Hamilton
Image caption Simon Hamilton said he was optimistic that the parties would reach a deal

A Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) minister has said he is no doubt there will be a deal to resolve Northern Ireland's political crisis.

Simon Hamilton said the question was how comprehensive the agreement would be and how many parties will back it.

He was speaking after further talks between the main political parties and the British and Irish governments.

Negotiations have been taking place over welfare reform, paramilitaries and the Troubles legacy.

Mr Hamilton said he did not think at this stage "we're in any doubt that there will be an agreement".

"I am hopeful - we have made progress and we continue to make progress," he said.

"Yes, there are some issues that are still outstanding and we will work away at resolving those, but I am optimistic that we will get an agreement."

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers said it had been "another intensive week of negotiations" and that talks would resume at Stormont on Monday morning.

"Progress has been made but some fundamental issues are still to be resolved," she said.

"We remain hopeful that an agreement can be achieved."

Image caption Negotiations between the parties over welfare reform, paramilitaries and the Troubles legacy began in September

Irish Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan said he was encouraged by the progress that had been made "across a range of issues".

But he added that agreement still had to be reached in some areas.

"I encourage all the parties to continue their positive engagement," he said.

"With collective commitment and leadership on the part of all involved, a positive outcome can be achieved."

It is understood that one of the sticking points in discussions about the legacy of the Troubles centres on the issue of national security and disclosure of information on the role played by the security forces and intelligence agencies.

The story of Stormont's crisis

Earlier, Sinn Féin chairman Declan Kearney accused the two governments of blocking progress.

He accused the Irish government of playing a "subservient role by aiding and abetting the primacy of these British state interests".

SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell said any deal would have to be one all of the five main parties could agree on.

"This can't be an ambush," he said.

"We're looking for a five-party deal with five parties and two governments signing up to a deal that's sustainable, that we're not back here next May or June."

Inter-party talks began in September to resolve the current political crisis.

The crisis at Stormont was triggered when police said they believed IRA members had been involved in the murder of a former IRA man.

The parties have also been deadlocked over the issue of welfare reform.

They had agreed on a welfare reform deal in December but Sinn Féin withdrew its support in March.

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