4 O’CLOCK AND ALL’S NOT WELL – By Brian Rowan 


It was the time on the political clock when yet another supposed deadline passed.

Remember, this time, things were going to be different.

This was meant to be the deadline of all deadlines. The one that really mattered.

Yet, as the clock struck 4, Stormont did not stand still.

The rain continued. The talking continued. The stalemate continued. The media attention continued.

Hours earlier, there was no mention of the deadline as Secretary of State James Brokenshire and Irish Minister Simon Coveney read prepared statements to a listening media.

This reading out and walking away from the microphones is not Coveney’s style.

Since his arrival on the Stormont scene some days ago, he has lifted the Irish Government out of anonymity in the these talks; said a few things, offered a few opinions and this is precisely what these negotiations need.



Although neither said it, it was obvious that time was again being stretched like an elastic. Deadlines here are no more than a rough guide.

But not just time is being stretched. So, also is credibility.

There was nothing to sing about in the Stormont rain. Not yet anyway.

Brokenshire is apparently reflecting while the talking continues, but talking about what?

The same things, the same issues, the same possibilities.

To put it bluntly, it is time to get off the pot.

On UTV’s View From Stormont on Thursday evening Paul Clark asked political editor Ken Reid – where did it all go wrong; a reference to yet another broken deadline and no deal.

There is a simple answer to that question. It has gone wrong because parties and governments have underestimated what it is going to take to make things right.

They got it wrong at the time of the Martin McGuinness resignation in January, and have got it wrong since. This is not a game of chicken.

There will be no Executive until outstanding issues are resolved.

The next moves are difficult, but obvious.

Without an Irish Language Act, reform of the petition of concern to remove the veto on issues such as marriage equality and a Bill of Rights, there will be no deal.

If the DUP, with its MPs back in the talks play this weekend, can move on these issues, then the focus moves to the Adams/O’Neill leadership and those in that core group around them.

Can they sell a legacy process with national security embedded; a process not signed off in political agreement but rather now to be tested in public consultation?

Can they also create a situation that allows Arlene Foster to be First Minister in any new Executive?

The above is the standoff, the stalemate the logjam in these talks.

If it can be cleared quickly, then it is right to allow these talks the breathing space of a few days.

If it cannot, then this talking shop at Stormont should be closed until parties are ready and  prepared to move.

Are we at the wrong time of year to get a deal that is right for Stormont – one that will stick?

The next few days will answer that question.

In the waiting, the three other parties to these talks – the SDLP, UUP and Alliance – have been pushed to the fringes of the conversation. There will be a point when they will be needed.

The hope is for a Coalition Agreement. All five parties in the Executive.

It is not just about the DUP and Sinn Fein, but it is for now.

None of this is easy. There are big decisions for Foster/Dodds and Adams/O’Neill – big moments for their parties.

They should wait until they are certain. Stormont doesn’t need another mess.

One thought on “4 O’CLOCK AND ALL’S NOT WELL – By Brian Rowan 

  1. Stormont has been a shambles for several years, at least since the chuckle brothers got together. These parties do not and cannot unite our community, that is a goal that cannot be reached by parties of the extreme. They cannot revise their aims because they are caught in a vortex. Why else is that statue of Carson still standing if not to declare to the world that our elected representatives cannot do politics in the shadow of a clown or in the shadow of a gunman?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *