Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has intervened in the latest deadlock in Northern Ireland, it has been revealed.

Clinton spent a lengthy time on the phone with Sinn Fein leader and Deputy First Minster Martin McGuinness during the latest round of talks to try and resolve the policing and justice issues. Sources say her intervention has been “very helpful.”

Sinn Fein and its fellow governing party, the DUP have been locked in crisis talks over the past few days in a furious attempt to bring about a resolution of the policing and justice issue.

There are strong indications that the talks are starting to make progress and that the American intervention has been very useful in helping achieve that goal.

There are unconfirmed reports that the latest talks were called after a secret ballot by DUP parliamentary party members showed a large majority in favor of agreeing a solution to the policing and justice matter and continuing in government.

The talks continue against the backdrop of the scandal involving Iris Robinson, wife of former First Minister Peter Robinson, and her affair with a 19-year-old son of a now deceased close friend.

Robinson, who has stepped aside for six weeks, is back leading the talks from the unionist side. Insiders say a solution to the deal will involve a compromise on how controversial Orange parades will be handled.

Just a week ago it looked like the Northern Ireland government would collapse. Sinn Fein was due to hold an executive meeting that was expected to vote to pull out of the assembly.

Then came a major snowstorm that caused the meeting to be cancelled. Shortly after, the Robinson affair broke, which in a strange twist may even have focused the attention of the parties in securing a deal more than ever before.

Clinton, at an earlier meeting with Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness