Leaders call for end to NI deadlock
Prime Minister David Cameron and Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny have urged Northern Ireland's parties to end the political deadlock threatening the collapse of power-sharing in the province.
Following talks in Downing Street, Mr Cameron said the situation was "serious" and joined Mr Kenny in calling on the parties to fully implement the Stormont House agreement.
The deal struck last year between the two governments and the five parties on the executive in the Northern Ireland Assembly, was intended to enable progress on a number of outstanding issues and allow the budget to go ahead.
But the whole agreement is threatened by the decision by Sinn Fein and the nationalist SDLP to veto the implementation of UK welfare cuts in Northern Ireland.
The Democratic Unionists have warned that unless the deadlock is resolved the executive will be left with a £600 million funding "black hole", a gap that could lead to the collapse of the power sharing institutions.
Mr Cameron said: "The current situation in Northern Ireland is serious."
"It is vital that Northern Ireland's political leaders deliver on their side of the deal if we are to deliver a brighter more secure future for the people there."
Mr Kenny added: "We recognise the difficulties that must be and are being faced by the Northern Ireland parties as they continue to have our support in seeking to resolve their budgetary issues."
He said that dealing with "legacy issues" from the Troubles - such as the murder of solicitor Pat Finucane - was also an important part of the agreement.
Back in Belfast, Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness laid the blame for the crisis at the door of Mr Cameron's government.
He said the "Tory austerity agenda" was threatening the "green shoots of recovery in the North".
Addressing a Chamber of Commerce event in the city, Mr McGuinness said: "W e are facing into a political and financial crisis that has been inflicted upon us by the economic policies of the Conservative government in Westminster.
"The previous Tory-led government stripped £1.5 billion from the public service budget of the Executive. They proposed to save more money at the expense of the most vulnerable under the misnomer of welfare reform.
"The new Tory government is planning billions of pounds more of reductions in public services and welfare benefits which will inflict devastating cuts on our society and our economy.
"You can't take that kind of spending power out of any economy, particularly one as fragile and small as ours, and not expect there to be serious repercussions for our prospects for economic recovery.
"Austerity is bad for the community, bad for the economy and bad for business. So austerity and its imposition on our society is a serious challenge which the Executive has to deal with in the time ahead.
"I remain determined to find solutions. That remains my personal and political priority."