It is now likely that the political negotiations in Northern Ireland, chaired by Dr Richard Haass, will continue beyond midnight.

Following a day of negotiations among the five main parties at Stormont, a seventh draft of proposals was drawn up.

Their responses will decide whether there is the basis for what would be a New Year's Eve agreement or if Dr Haass and his colleague Professor Meghan O'Sullivan have been unable to find consensus on solutions to problem areas of the peace process.

Representatives of the five main parties at Stormont began their discussions shortly after 10am.

Dr Haass has been exploring a range of solutions to problems in the peace process since September.

The talks are intended to provide a framework for when contentious flags can be flown, for dealing with the victims of 30 years of violence and for gaining consensus on a new body to decide where members of the loyal orders and republicans can march.

Dr Haass came as a facilitator to Northern Ireland at the invitation of First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

Early last Tuesday, Dr Haass and Ms O'Sullivan agreed they had not found consensus for their proposals and they travelled home to their families in the US for Christmas Day.

They returned to Belfast over the weekend and have been meeting Northern Ireland's five main political parties.