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Talks set to continue at Stormont over Welfare Reform

By Liam Clarke

Published 02/06/2015

The Government is prepared for weeks more of talks on Welfare Reform and the Stormont House Agreement. They start today with no definite plan beyond that.

Secretary of State Theresa Villiers is meeting the leaders of the five Executive parties at Stormont House for a meeting expected to last about two hours.

"There is as yet no real sense as to how it is going to go and I think it really will be setting the stalls out. The Secretary of State will try her very best to get the parties to agree but it could mean a lot of talking over the coming days and weeks," an NIO source said. The effective cut-off date appears to be around the end of the month or the beginning of next.

There is a monitoring round on July 6 when budgetary problems will come to a head without further government loans and aid. Irish Foreign Minister Charles Flanagan may only be involved in the earlier part of the meeting which is likely to look at the Stormont House Agreement.

It is yet to be decided but if unionists object he may opt to leave when the budget is being discussed. Unionists normally insist that the Irish government should not discuss Northern Ireland's internal affairs.

Both Sinn Fein and the DUP hoped, at the weekend, that a solution was possible but neither party signalled any actual change in its position.

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