A senior government source said: "We are simply astonished at what the Tories are doing. The Northern Ireland peace process has been strengthened by the bipartisan approach between all major parties at Westminster. Holding talks at a country estate and excluding the nationalists is absolutely not within that spirit."
The bipartisan approach dates back to November 1993, when it was revealed that Major's government had held secret talks with the IRA. John Hume, the former SDLP leader, marched into the office of the late Labour leader, John Smith, to ask him to pull his punches because an important political process was under way.
The Tories were strongly criticised in Northern Ireland last night. Alasdair McDonnell, the deputy leader of the SDLP, said: "This is a very sinister development. We have travelled far over 15 years of peacemaking and are now at the point of putting in the last piece of jigsaw. What we have is Mr Cameron parachuting in with hobnailed boots, going off into a corner with two parties and excluding three others."
Brown and Cowen in talks to rescue Stormont power-sharing deal | UK news | The Guardian