Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness has pulled out of his planned trip to the United States for St Patrick's Day to focus on finding political agreement between his party and the DUP over welfare reforms at Stormont.

Mr McGuinness and Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson had been invited to the White House for the annual St Patrick's Day celebrations on Tuesday.

However, last week, in the wake of Sinn Féin's dramatic withdrawal of support for welfare legislation, Mr Robinson indicated that he may not travel to the US for the event.

In a statement, the Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister said the number one priority for him and his party was finding a resolution to the current impasse.

He said: "The Sinn Féin team and I have engaged in this work positively and constructively.

"Progress has been made in talks between the parties but there is still a lot of work to be done. 

"I have decided to focus on finding a resolution and will therefore not be travelling to the US to take part in events marking St Patrick's Day."

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he would urge Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson to deal with their outstanding issues.

He said the White House made it "perfectly clear" they welcome politicians who can get together to sort out their difficulties.

Mr Kenny, who is in the US ahead of an official St Patrick’s Day visit, said he was "quite sure" the parties must have discussed welfare reform in terms of the details of the numbers and money involved.

He said it was a matter for the First and Deputy First Minister and their parties and others to deal with the political problem now.

He said he did not expect the White House or the American administration to want to do "anything that might upset that”.

It had been reported last Tuesday that DUP leader Peter Robinson was pulling out of the trip to the White House alongside Mr McGuinness next week.

The First and Deputy First Ministers were due to meet President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden during a series of 17 March engagements.

Last week former senator Gary Hart who represented secretary of state John Kerry during the Stormont House Agreement talks before Christmas said he hoped a resolution to the stalemate could be found so that the Washington meetings could go ahead.

The row over welfare reform erupted on Monday when Sinn Féin made a shock announcement just hours before a final Assembly debate.

It centres on whether Stormont-funded mitigation schemes designed to support those in Northern Ireland who lose out under the reformed UK welfare system will cover future claimants, not just existing ones.

Sinn Féin pulled support after alleging the DUP had acted in bad faith by proposing to limit the schemes to current claimants.

The DUP has insisted there had never been an agreement to support future claimants and said such a system would require another £286m.

Implementing the British government's changes to the benefits system is a key plank of December's landmark Stormont House Agreement which was agreed after 11 weeks of intensive negotiations.

Without the already long-delayed legislation passing, the whole deal would likely implode and the future of the powersharing institutions would be plunged into uncertainty.

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers has warned that without agreement on welfare the budget would be unsustainable and the devolution of corporation tax powers would be put in jeopardy.