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Tory-DUP talks holding Stormont to ransom, says SDLP's Eastwood

Talks between the DUP and the Conservatives are holding the negotiations to restore Stormont "to ransom", the SDLP has claimed.

Party leader Colum Eastwood said the discussions in London were "undermining" the ongoing talks in Belfast, which included a round-table meeting last night at Stormont Castle.

He also said it was not a matter of if the Executive was restored, but when.

He was speaking as senior civil servants draw up a 'best guess' document as the talks now enter the last week before the June 29 deadline.

The position paper is to cover key contentious areas including an Irish Language Act and dealing with the legacy of the Troubles.

It follows submissions from the five main parties, which are not being published.

The work on the paper continued yesterday, although all eyes were still on the negotiations between the DUP and the Tories in London.

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Mr Eastwood said the DUP and Sinn Fein were preparing to strike a deal sooner or later.

But he warned no deal could be achieved at Stormont while the DUP-Tory negotiations were continuing.

"There will be a deal, whether next week or in the autumn, so let's get on with it," he said.

"People need to see certainty here.

"It is clear people want in. Sinn Fein want in, the DUP want in.

"If people think anyone is going to sign a deal here without knowing what is going to come from London - that doesn't make any sense at all.

"We are all a bit preoccupied with what is going on, or not going on, in London.

"It is quite clear that the DUP and Tory Party aren't quite sure what they are doing, but they need to get on with it because it is affecting the process here.

"The talks in London are clearly undermining the discussions here. We need a resolution to that uncertainty so that we can get on with the job of getting the deal done.

"The chaotic talks between the DUP and the Tories are holding the politics of the north to ransom."

Mr Eastwood also said any money which arises from the Tory/ DUP deal would belong to all the people of Northern Ireland.

"If there is an economic package coming from London then it needs to be targeted to those areas and those people in the north who have been left behind," the Foyle MLA argued.

"The DUP needs to understand that it is not their money. It belongs to all the people.

"It must be targeted where objective need exists, not the parochial political desires of one party.

"During previous Executives, under the watch of the DUP and Sinn Fein, the north faced further economic repartitioning - with the west of the Bann losing out again and again.

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