The Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Taoiseach Brian Cowen have refused to set a new deadline for the devolution of policing and justice after urgent talks last night.
Amid a bitter war of words between Sinn Fein and the DUP over when powers should be devolved to Northern Ireland from London, the two leaders insisted progress has been made.
As a swift resolution to the stand-off looks increasingly unlikely, the Prime Minister repeatedly stated he was “confident and optimistic” about resolving the deadlock that has stalled the handover.
Asked whether a new date in place of the original deadline of May last year should be set, they instead said they were focusing on making progress over the coming days as more intensive talks are called to tackle the stumbling blocks that now remain.
Despite the financial package being settled the DUP are unhap
py with the a number of issues surrounding the creation of the new ministry of justice.
Mr Brown said: “We have made a lot of progress in the last few months.
“We have got to name a Minister of Justice as soon as possible but I am confident that as the talks with party leaders progress
we can make progress with that. Let us see how the next few days move things forward.
“I do say I am confident both sides will see a way forward and I’m optimistic we can bring people to a point where we can complete the transfer of powers.”
Mr Brown and Mr Cowan were speaking in Downing Street after brief talks which saw the Taoiseach squeezed in between Mr Brown’s statement to the Commons on Afghanistan and phone talks with US President Barack Obama.
Pressures of the heavy diary commitments scheduled by No 10 meant discussions were set to continue late last night with Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward.
The meeting comes in the wake of heightened tensions between the First and Deputy First Ministers as both continue to accuse the other of stalling progress.
Last night both leaders were insistent that intensive work will continue over the rest of the week with all parties.
They also insisted relations be
tween London and Dublin were “incredibly strong” and went on to praise the PSNI and Garda for the way they are tackling the increased dissident activity.
But Mr Cowen said it was vital for the stability of the political institutions that the transfer of policing and justice powers get under way soon.