Northern Ireland news

David Cameron meets Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness

David Cameron held talks with Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness at Downing Street. Picture by Hugh Russell 
By David Young and Gavin Cordon, Press Associatio

PRIME Minister David Cameron has met Stormont's political leaders in an effort to secure a deal to save power-sharing in Northern Ireland.

Amid continuing speculation that some form of agreement is within reach, Mr Cameron held talks with Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness at Downing Street.

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers was also involved in the discussions.

A range of disputes have been on the agenda in on-going negotiations between the Government and the region's main parties.

The private encounter in London was characterised as an "update" meeting on all aspects of the talks, but it is understood particular focus was placed on Stormont's acute financial crisis.

A vexed budget wrangle has left the power-sharing administration in Belfast facing an unsustainable black hole of hundreds of millions of pounds.

A resolution to the long-standing impasse over the Executive's failure to implement the Government's welfare reforms in Northern Ireland will be crucial to any breakthrough.

Exchanges involving the Government and the two main parties - Mr McGuinness's Sinn Fein and Mr Robinson's DUP - have ramped up in recent days and are set to extend into the weekend in an effort to get a deal over the line.

It is understood Stormont's leaders want the Government to commit extra funding to the power-sharing Executive, both resource and capital, as part of any settlement.

The wider negotiations, which have been on-going for weeks, are also trying to find a way forward on other problems causing the current instability at Stormont, including the fallout from a recent murder linked to the IRA and a row over how to deal with the legacy of the Troubles.

While it is understood progress has been made in a number of areas, the fate of the negotiations still hangs in the balance.

A Downing Street spokesman confirmed the "private meeting" took place.

Northern Ireland news

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