A limit set by Gordan Brown and Brian Cowen for concluding negotiations passed on Friday lunchtime, but talks between Northern parties continued into the night.
The British Prime Minister and Irish Taoiseach had announced the deadline on Wednesday, but because negotiations were still proceeding fruitfully on Friday they allowed it to lapse. Talks between Sinn Fein and the DUP continued until 1am this morning. Today is the sixth day of discussion, making these the longest continuous talks of the peace process, according to the Irish Independent. Earlier this week talks went on till 5am Friday morning.
Negotiations are “at a sensitive and defining” point, Gerry Adams told reporters, adding, “We will keep at it. The fact that we are here and working shows we do think there is a chance.”
The DUP sounded just as determined. “There is still a long way to go before we will be at a point where we will be putting our name to anything,” a senior DUP source told the Irish Times. “There is still a fair amount of work to be done. We certainly won’t be walking away from anything.”
The main sticking points remain the issues of policing, justice and the parades. Sinn Fein wants responsibility for these areas to fall to the Stormont Assembly as soon as possible, while unionists want new arrangements for loyalist parades to be brought in before they will agree.
Brian Cowen and Gordan Brown were on standby yesterday, ready to endorse the deal, but the parties did not reach agreement. .
Sinn Fein denied reports of internal divisions over how to proceed, according to the Times.
When asked if a deal was on, the party’s Conor Murphy, replied: "Not as yet, it's not on.” He added. "I hope that that changes over the coming hours, and we will certainly remain focused to try to achieve that, but unfortunately to date, a deal is not yet on."