On Tuesday there was an emptiness to Parliament Buildings; almost a sense of abandonment – and still no sign of the political thinking and will that will be needed to lift this place out of its mood and mire.
In a political tug-of-war, it seems the knot is tightening.
Just listen to some of the words of recent days – humiliation versus insult; all of this straining and strengthening that knot that won’t loosen.
“The same old shite,” was how one negotiator dismissed a conversation on Monday.
“In any negotiation the position has to change at some point,” he continued, but it hasn’t – not yet – and what if those positions don’t change?
It is close to nine months since the late Martin McGuinness resigned as deputy first minister.
Those who thought this was some phoney war or crisis have had plenty of time since to reassess and rethink – to rework their commentary.
The politics of Stormont is frozen in the fallout from January and the elections since.
Sinn Fein’s vote in March scared unionists, prompted the reaction that came in June when the DUP recovered and, now, the two parties are stuck – perhaps even stranded – on the spot of that electoral success.
They have the numbers and are afraid of losing them; afraid of being out-negotiated or outmanoeuvred.
It means the political institutions at Stormont are tied up in the knot of that tug-of-war and numbers game that is Union versus Unity; Orange versus Green.
It is hard to imagine political compromises being freed from such a tight grip or hold.
Just read Declan Kearney’s recent contribution to this website. His listing of rights as the key to unlocking this stalemate, and put his words alongside those we are hearing from the DUP, particularly in opposition to a stand-alone Irish Language Act.
This negotiation has not moved – and is not moving.
For all the talk of intensive talks, there is now the suggestion of the need for more time- bound structured talks.
It is all talk.
The words often acting as heavy weights holding down and holding back progress; holding the parties on those spots on which they are stuck.
The DUP “common sense” proposal of restoring the Executive followed by more talks has been completely rejected; most recently in the Kearney blog on this website.
There is no trust for such a sequence to be considered or allowed.
In the standoff, the shout from the public is to end salaries. Would such a move help the negotiation, bring closer a deal? The answer is NO.
Politics has become lost in a place of no new ideas.
Who are unionists trying to convince that in the absence of agreement, there will be no Irish Government input into some Plan B?
Are they talking to themselves? Have they missed completely the significance of the voting trends in recent months – how this place has changed and is changing?
Dublin knows its role and responsibilities.
It also knows there is no substitute for Plan A and working politics at Stormont.
This many months after the McGuinness resignation are we any closer to that point?
The answer is NO. The big votes for Sinn Fein and the DUP have made a deal more difficult and the political knot more fixed.
These endless talks are way beyond their sell-by date. The two governments need to call it.