Substance of Stormont deal agreed, says Peter Robinson
Deputy First Minister says great progress has been made in talks between parties
Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson: ‘Things are going in the right direction.’ Photograph: Alan Betson
However, Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers was more guarded in her comments.
The DUP First Minister said last night that the “substance” of an agreement had been reached, while the Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister said “great progress” has been made in the talks involving the North’s five main parties and the British and Irish governments.
“The core of that agreement, the substance, has already been agreed in dialogue terms between Sinn Féin and the DUP,” said Mr Robinson.
“We have to then put it into text form in a way that can get the support of the other participating parties – because two of the three other parties, I think, do want to get an agreement they can sign up to – and the two governments,” he told the BBC.
Mr Robinson said “things are going in the right direction” and he was optimistic of a deal this week.
The hope in Dublin and London is that the deal will be formally sealed tomorrow.
The DUP leader also rounded on Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt, who expressed concern that the deal would involve £500 million of additional loan-raising powers for the Northern Executive on top of the £2 billion extra in grants and borrowing powers promised in the stalled Stormont House Agreement of last Christmas.
Such an arrangement would be tantamount to “mortgaging the future of the children of Northern Ireland”, said Mr Nesbitt.
Mr Robinson said Mr Nesbitt had not “ a clue what he was talking about”. He accused the Ulster Unionists of being in “wrecking mode, sitting around like vultures waiting for something to pick at”.
Mr McGuinness also said a deal was achievable this week.
“It’s still deal on, but there’s more work to be done, and a lot of that work is between the parties and the governments,” he said.
However, Ms Villiers cautioned that there were still outstanding matters to be resolved, particularly over welfare reform, the past and what information could be divulged in the context of protecting British national security.