The UK Government has insisted there will be no question of imposing unwanted solutions on political leaders in Northern Ireland in a bid to break the impasse on flags, parades and dealing with the legacy of the past.
The Northern Ireland Office made clear its position in the wake of comments from the Irish Deputy Prime Minister Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore that the administrations in Dublin and London would consider “an intervention” if the five parties in Stormont’s powersharing executive failed to agree a deal.
The parties remain at loggerheads on the three divisive issues despite a bid by former US diplomat Richard Haass to strike an agreement.
While Sinn Fein and the SDLP have endorsed a draft deal produced by Dr Haass at the end of the negotiation process he chaired through the second half of last year, the Democratic Unionists, Ulster Unionists and the cross community Alliance party have all expressed concern about elements of the proposals.
The leaders of five parties are due to meet in Belfast on Tuesday in a bid to break the deadlock.
The NIO indicated that if the Government does get involved, it will not be in the form of making proposals that do not have the backing of the Executive parties.
“The UK Government will continue to encourage the NI political parties to find an agreed way forward on the issues considered in the Haass process,” said a spokeswoman.
“The Irish Government has indicated that it too wants to support efforts to secure cross party agreement.
“This is a process initiated by the NI political parties and there can be no question of imposing a set of solutions from outside which doesn’t have the backing of Northern Ireland’s political leadership.”
Earlier Mr Gilmore said the British and Irish Governments were determined that the issues should not be allowed to “drift”.
“I don’t think there is a very long period of time within which this can continue on,” he told the BBC.
“There is an urgency about getting these issues resolved.
“I think if there is an intervention, I think it will be an intervention by both governments together.
“We are agreed that this is something that both governments will work together on.
“If necessary we will have to do that, but I hope that it will be possible that the political parties in Northern Ireland will be able to reach agreement among themselves.
“I think that that’s appropriate, because these are issues that have to be resolved in Northern Ireland.”