Leading members of Sinn Féin and the DUP have said that the St Andrews agreement, which outlines steps towards power-sharing in Northern Ireland, represents progress.

The proposed agreement was put to the parties by the two governments yesterday after three days of talks in Scotland.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio's Saturday View, Sinn Féin's chief negotiator, Martin McGuinness, said the agreement had helped create a mood of great hope and optimism.

The DUP's Jeffrey Donaldson said his party viewed the agreement as offering the potential for positive progress.

The Minister for Finance, Brian Cowen, has described the outcome of the St Andrews talks as very important.

He said the prospect of a rapprochement that involves the DUP is one that provided an end game.

Speaking in Letterkenny, where he addressed the inaugural Neil T Blaney Autumn School, Mr Cowen said it was absolutely critical that the timetable as set out by the Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, and the British Prime Minister, Mr Blair, is met.

Politicians in Northern Ireland are considering the detail of the potential deal, which involves a series of staged agreements to be reached by the Northern parties.

Under the plan, the parties will have to give a clear signal by 10 November whether they believe the deal is workable.

Mr Blair said he believed the proposal was a way forward, while Mr Ahern said he believed all the elements are in place.

The full text of the Agreement at St Andrews is available on the Taoiseach's website