Belfast Telegraph

Still 'big divisions' after talks

Big differences remain between Stormont parties over significant issues, the Northern Ireland Secretary has said.

Theresa Villiers is due to submit a report on progress in the five-party negotiations to the Prime Minister at the end of this month.

This week dialogue focused on the legacy of Troubles violence, parading and potential reform of devolved political institutions.

Ms Villiers said: "Today's meetings have been positive and constructive.

"All parties continue to engage but there are still big differences of view between them on some very significant issues."

Earlier this month the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) warned the parties the cost of dealing with the past will rise inescapably if there is no agreement.

Sinn Fein deputy first minister Martin McGuinness has said securing a new financial package is a key talks objective which would help secure the future of the power sharing institutions.

The initiative set up by the UK Government last month is aimed at finding a resolution to disputes creating logjam at Stormont.

Thorny impasses left over from the peace process - concerning flags, parades and the legacy of the past - are on the agenda, as are wrangles over the workings and structures of the powersharing administration.

The failure of the Executive to implement the UK Government's welfare reforms - a stance that is costing millions of pounds in Treasury penalties - is also being discussed.

Most of the talks involve the parties meeting each other, Irish foreign affairs minister Charlie Flanagan and Ms Villiers for one-to-one encounters.

Ms Villiers and Mr Flanagan are to produce an interim report on the progress of the talks for Prime Minister David Cameron and Taoiseach Enda Kenny by the end of the month.

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