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Theresa Villiers: Do deal today or talks will have failed

By Noel McAdam

Secretary of State Theresa Villiers is today calling time on the multi-party talks.

There will be no further negotiations, she warned - even if there is no agreement in the next 24 hours.

As David Cameron was due to respond to the Stormont parties £2bn package appeal, Mrs Villiers warned last night: "It's make-your-mind-up time for Northern Ireland's political leaders.

"These talks finish today, even if it takes all night. If there's no agreement tomorrow, there isn't going to be one, and the process ends in failure."

The result of weekend deliberations by Treasury officials will be revealed at a meeting this morning, chaired by Mrs Villiers and Irish Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan.

Mr Cameron is thought likely, however, to make his renewed offer conditional on a more comprehensive agreement on the remaining talks issues, which also include reducing the current 108 MLAs to 90, and cutting government departments from 12 to eight.

Some of the details were worked out in a 'tele-conference' phone call between Belfast and London involving First Minister Peter Robinson, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and Mr Cameron on Saturday.

Mr Robinson said the discussions had focused on the £2.14bn financial package which includes agreement on welfare reform, borrowing to finance civil service redundancies, and £800m for peace and reconciliation projects.

Mr McGuinness said: "Work is continuing between the parties on the outstanding issues of identity, parades and the legacy of the past, but agreement has yet to be reached."

Alliance, however, warned against "half-solutions" which would result in new problems in the future.

Employment Minister Stephen Farry said: "Failure risks jeopardising the very survival of devolution."

Belfast Telegraph


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