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Brian Cowen

British, Irish prime ministers fly to Belfast in effort to defuse political crisis

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Brian Cowen

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his counterpart from Ireland, Brian Cowen, have flown to Belfast in an effort to rescue the Northern Irish peace process from collapse.

Both men agreed after a meeting in London to travel to the North to mediate talks between Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party, which share power there.

The power-sharing government is on the verge of collapse because the issue of devolving policing and justice matters to the North have not taken place, which Sinn Fein says they were promised.

There was an emergency  one-hour meeting between  Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and the Northern Ireland First Minster Peter Robinson today, but none of the outstanding issues were resolved.

In return for the devolution of policing and justice, the DUP want the Parades Commission abolished. The Parades Commission has forced Orange marches to reroute from Catholic neighborhoods, most notably in Drumcree, near Portadown, where a hugely controversial march has been banned.

Sinn Fein has made it clear that they will not agree to the complete abolition of the Parades Commission, but they appear willing to make a compromise if justice and policing is devolved.

"Martin McGuinness put it very clearly that there must be movement on policing and justice without the added DUP precondition on parades," senior political sources told the Irish Times.

Sources also said "that a proper working relationship with the DUP in the Executive is impossible" at present.

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