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Stormont talks: Deal expected as Executive calls meeting

By Claire Cromie

The Stormont Executive is to meet at 3pm today, amid mounting optimism a deal is imminent.

Sources say a deal will be confirmed today resolving disputes over welfare reform and paramilitarism.

But issues around the legacy of the Troubles are to be left unresolved, it is understood.

The Assembly is expected to then meet on Wednesday to deal with welfare.

With the main participants in the negotiation process having already agreed the outline of a settlement, it is understood a degree of progress on outstanding obstacles was made in late-night talks at Stormont House on Monday.

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers had already told local leaders this week was "make your mind up time".

The main outstanding bone of contention has been the issue of dealing with the legacy of the Troubles - in particular, an impasse involving Sinn Fein and the UK Government over the prospect of some official documents not being disclosed, on national security grounds, to new truth-recovery bodies.

As a consequence, it is not clear whether any deal that does emerge will incorporate legacy matters.

Other disputes that have rocked Stormont, including an acute budgetary crisis linked to non-implementation of welfare reforms and the fallout from an IRA murder linked to the Provisional IRA, are set to be addressed in whatever settlement emerges.

The talks process in Belfast involving the five main Stormont parties and the British and Irish governments is in its tenth week.

While only DUP and Sinn Fein sign-off is required among the local parties to implement any settlement, they both would ideally like the endorsement of Stormont's three other main players - the SDLP, Ulster Unionists and Alliance Party - to add greater legitimacy.

The UUP, which walked out of the coalition Executive in protest at the IRA-linked murder, is viewed as the least likely of those three to sign up.

The SDLP has insisted it will not sign up to a bad deal.

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