Alliance party leader, David Ford, has warned that the political crisis at Stormont is deepening. Addressing delegates at his party's annual conference, he claimed the North had a dysfunctional Executive.

"Matters got worse when Peter Robinson replaced Ian Paisley as First Minister," he said. "We didn't have the good personal relationship any longer and we still saw no progress by the Executive on tackling the difficult issues, just more of the same – and the same was not very much."

Ford is favourite to become the North's first justice minister if policing and justice powers are devolved from Westminster. However, he claimed other political parties in the North had failed to deliver a shared vision.

He said the British Conservative Party's claim to be progressive and non-sectarian had been brought into question by its links to the Ulster Unionist Party. He said it would sink without trace if it entered an electoral pact with the DUP.