“All the institutions under the Agreement are now at risk, so the UK Government and Irish Government have agreed on a shared approach to the talks” – from paper to parties.
The above sentence is included in a detailed talks plan now with the largest political parties here – a set of proposed next steps that includes a suggested path to public consultation on the vexed question of legacy.
It is part of what is being described as “an intense process [of talks] over the next ten days”.
That next round of negotiations is scheduled to begin at Stormont on Monday.
A paper to the parties – obtained by the eamonnmallie.com website – sets out the shared approach of the UK and Irish Governments under the headings scope, participation, structure and timescale.
The plan is for the governments to lead the process on outstanding issues – including on a structure to address the questions of the past.
Others continue to push for an independent chair.
A working group of the parties and governments will be convened to review legacy proposals before any public consultation.
Dating back to the Stormont House Agreement of 2014 these proposals include an Historical Investigations Unit, Independent Commission on Information Retrieval, Oral History Archive and an Implementation and Reconciliation Group.
But this plan has become bogged down in a battle over the implications of National Security and what this will mean in terms of disclosure to families.
Some days ago, a talks insider said one of the challenges was to hold a public consultation “without it being blighted by political commentary”.
Under the latest talks proposals, Victims Commissioner Judith Thompson is to be asked to advise the working group on how best a public phase can be conducted.
Conclusions are to be reported to a roundtable of the governments and party leaders.
A paper with the parties says: “On legacy, the objective is to complete engagement on remaining issues so that a full genuine public consultation can be launched with the best possible chance of success.”
The latest talks paper also addresses the issues of trying to form an Executive as well as getting a coalition agreement on a Programme for Government, budget, new approach to governance and an Executive approach to Brexit.
There are to be daily co-ordination meetings as well as regular “process and progress” roundtable meetings.
This is an attempt to add structure and urgency to a process described in recent days as “shambolic”.
While the governments have set out their shared approach in the paper to the parties, there remains an issue over who should chair the talks.
This website understands that Sinn Fein has proposed a name to the British and Irish Governments – a local rather than an international figure.
As the latest talks approach, there are continuing issues relating to culture, identity and rights – with Sinn Fein and the SDLP insisting on a stand alone Irish Language Act. This was not resolved in the phase of discussions that ended abruptly last Sunday.
Unionists have raised issues relating to Ulster Scots, an Armed Forces Covenant and definition of a victim.
This talking has now been given some extra time – but is it enough time to reach such a comprehensive agreement and implementation plan?
Once again we are watching that Stormont space. Ten days have been allocated in this latest effort to rescue the political institutions.