Belfast Telegraph

Stormont deal as early as next week - reports

Hopes are growing that a deal to restore power-sharing at Stormont could be announced as early as next week.

Discussions continued at Stormont, although the two main parties, the DUP and Sinn Fein, were absent from a scheduled all-party session on Friday.

The episode has fuelled mounting speculation that the two largest parties have made progress in their efforts to strike a deal, and are continuing to hammer out the details of a proposed agreement that would see the power-sharing Executive return more than a year after it collapsed.

British and Irish ministers held talks with the three smaller parties, the Ulster Unionist Party, the SDLP and the Alliance Party.

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley has previously said an agreement was by no means certain, but she expressed hope a resolution between Sinn Fein and Democratic Unionists could be secured in the near future.

On Friday SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said: "The truth is, this isn’t an all-party process. It is an exclusive two party process.

"I’ve told both governments when the two party process is concluded and they are ready to engage in five party negotiations the SDLP will be ready to negotiate."

Earlier it was reported Prime Minister Theresa May could visit Northern Ireland next week as a deal edges closer.

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