Talks aimed at resolving contentious issues in the Northern Ireland peace process have ended without agreement.
The talks, chaired by former US diplomat Dr Richard Haass, were aimed at finding a solution to problems over the flying of flags, parades and dealing with victims of The Troubles.
The final session began at 10am yesterday and ended at around 5am this morning.
After the meeting, Dr Haass said he had not given up hope that a deal would eventually be reached.
He said a working group made up of representatives of the five parties in Stormont’s power-sharing executive would now be set up to try and find another way to build on “significant progress” that had been achieved.
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore described the outcome as not a step back but rather a step not yet taken.
He said significant progress had been made and that this must be safeguarded and built upon.
Negotiators from Sinn Féin said they were prepared to recommend the proposals to its ruling executive, but unionists would not sign up to the document.
“Yes it would have been nice to come out here tonight and say we have got all five parties completely signed on to the text, we are not there,” Dr Haass said.
The former US diplomat was commissioned by First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness to chair the six-month process.
Dr Haass said he believed there was a prospect that all the parties would either endorse all, or significant parts of his document in the future.
The DUP and Ulster Unionists said they would consult within their parties before making a final judgement on the proposals, but both indicated they had major difficulties with elements of the text.
The SDLP said it would also be conducting a consultation, but party leader Alasdair McDonnell said he would be recommending a general endorsement of the proposals.
Dr Haass urged Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness to make the details of the final document public so people could make up their own minds.
He denied the process had been a failure.
“Success should not be measured by what we report to you tonight or what the party leaders report tonight – I would ask you to judge the success in six months, in a year, 18 months, in two years, that would give a much more realistic definition or yardstick of what constitutes success,” he said.
“What I believe what we have done is laid down solid enough foundations stones.”
Dr Haass and talks vice-chairman Dr Meghan O’Sullivan, a US foreign affairs expert, said their role in any future political process would be limited, but both insisted they were not washing their hands of the process.
The Haass process was set up in July to deal with what have become three of the primary obstacles to meaningful reconciliation in Northern Ireland.
Tensions over contentious parades regularly erupt into street violence, while disputes over the flying of flags – both on public buildings and in loyalist and republican neighbourhoods – continue to be a source of community conflict.
But arguably the most complex issue has been how Northern Ireland deals with the legacy of a 30-year-conflict.