PRIME Minister David Cameron has left political recriminations in his wake after leaving Northern Ireland without a deal being signed.
It had been dubbed the ‘cheque book talks’ by TUV leader Jim Allister who said it was all about the money on the table.
Mr Cameron said he had tabled a financial package amounting to £1 billion, but that would only be made available to the Executive if an agreement can be reached on outstanding disputes.
Many of Northern Ireland’s politicians are unhappy at the scale of the financial offer made.
Mr Cameron and Taoiseach Enda Kenny both held discussions with the Executive’s five parties in an effort to forge a deal.
Leaving Stormont House, Mr Cameron said: “We have made good progress overnight and today, but a deal is not going to be possible today.”
Mr Cameron said: “I think a deal is possible. It’s possible because I think the parties have done a lot of good work on the issues that need to be settled – the issue of how to manage parades, how to handle the past, the issues of flying flags.
“The real work that still needs to be done is to make sure that the budget of the Northern Ireland Executive is sustainable and works, so intensive work needs to be done between the parties on that issue.”
With £1 billion of spending power on the table, Mr Cameron said a “comprehensive agreement” was needed rather than “simply some words about these issues”.
The Taoiseach said he also believed a deal was possible and the politicians “will be able to conclude the outstanding areas of disagreement on the matters that we have discussed”.
The financial package from the British government was proposed alongside an amended Heads of Agreement document produced by Mr Cameron and Mr Kenny, outlining potential areas of consensus on all of the issues.
First Minister Peter Robinson said there was “work that needs to be completed” and a “responsibility to get the job done”.
He said he did not believe the parties had “sufficiently challenged the prime minister on what his bottom line is on financial issues”, as they had not reached agreement on implementing welfare reform measures.
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness told reporters at Stormont this morning that there was no financial package to combat the austerity agenda.
The Sinn Féin MLA said they know if the issues are not resolved before Christmas, there is little chance of them being resolved after Christmas.
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said both governments had presented themselves as facilitators, but they are both wedded to austerity.
Mr Adams said the Executive cannot do its job if it is not funded properly.
His view on the situation was summed up in a tweet.
Mr McGuiness said Sinn Féin was distinctly underwhelmed by Mr Cameron’s offer.
He said Sinn Féin did not want to see the Stormont administration crash and wants the devolved institutions to continue.
The talks process had been running for nine weeks at Stormont House.
As well as long-standing disputes over flags, parades and the toxic legacy of the past, the five parties in the power-sharing coalition were also trying to achieve consensus on budgetary problems facing the devolved institutions.
The impasse over the non-implementation of the UK Government’s welfare reforms in Northern Ireland was a particular concern.
The structures and governance arrangements at Stormont were also on the agenda.
Ministers in Belfast have already had to ask for an emergency £100 million loan from the Treasury to balance their books this financial year.
Tánaiste Joan Burton said it was clear that the political parties need more time to consider the key issues but believes “the scope and potential is there to achieve a deal”.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan and Secretary of State Theresa Villiers had chaired more than 80 meetings between the parties over the past nine weeks.
Mr Flanagan said: “I am in no doubt that good progress has been made on many of the most difficult but significant challenges.
“However, there are decisions related to welfare reform and broader issues around budgets that remain to be resolved.”
Mr Flanagan said he was prepared to help the parties in the talks process in the coming days.