Progress over power-sharing being made: Sinn Fein
Sinn Fein has again insisted that progress is being made over the policing and justice issue which holds the key to the restoration of power-sharing.
As contact between Government officials and the party resumed yesterday, Sinn Fein struck an upbeat tone for the second time in less than a week.
But the positive noises from senior negotiator Martin McGuinness also gave no indication when the party will take a decision to call its executive to summon the long-anticipated special conference on policing.
Instead, he emphasised that Sinn Fein hopes the new year will bring a new beginning in terms of relations with the DUP.
Mr McGuinness said: "We have made considerable progress over the Christmas period and have been working with both the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, including contact once again this afternoon.
"This work will continue in the coming days to try and ensure that agreement can be made with the DUP to get the power-sharing institutions back up and running as quickly as possible.
"The Sinn Féin leadership has continued to work at this over Christmas because we want to see the New Year mark a new beginning in the relationship between our party and the DUP.
"We want to work in partnership with them in a power-sharing government to address the problems facing people across society."
DUP MP Gregory Campbell said, however, that Sinn Fein, in indicating it cannot commit to policing before a transfer date for policing and justice powers is agreed, was taking a long time to readjust to "new realities."
And he said the "testing period" could not even begin until Sinn Fein holds its ard fheis and agrees to support the police, with the next Assembly election pencilled in for March 7. "It is now completely out of the question, indeed it would be an insult to anyone's intelligence for the Government to expect such a period to be confined to the few weeks in between," he stressed.