Peter Robinson: Stormont leaders must return to talks to resolve crisis

Stormont leaders will have to return to the negotiating table if a solution to the current crisis is to be found, a former First Minister has said.

Peter Robinson has also warned that political progress cannot be lost.

He said: "I think the atmosphere has been soured over recent weeks and the 'he said, she said' doesn't help us in that process.

"I think there is a period required for everybody to calm down somewhat, but ultimately we are going to have to get back round the table again.

"That's where solutions are found."

The retired DUP leader was speaking as a portrait of his former power-sharing government partner Martin McGuinness was unveiled at Parliament Buildings.

He added: "There is a need for us to move forward as a society, we cannot allow all that has been built up over the past years to be lost and I think it is incumbent upon politicians of that generation to give that hope to especially young people today."

Northern Ireland has been without a functioning government since January 2017 when the Executive collapsed amid a row over a botched green energy scheme.

Since then issues have widened to include the same sex marriage ban, dealing with the toxic legacy of the past and Irish language rights.

The DUP and Sinn Fein were reportedly close to a deal last month but the talks fell apart on Valentine's Day over disagreements about Irish language legislation and there have been further wranglings between the parties over leaked documents and their content.

Mr Robinson said: "I don't think either of us doubted the determination of the other to make the process work, I never had any doubt about Martin's commitment to Stormont, to the Assembly, to the Executive, that's a good starting point.

"No matter how difficult some of the times, we were able to talk to each other, we were able to exchange documents without them leaking out - that again in terms of trust was important as well."