That advice late on Thursday night was the first guidance to reach me that the Stormont negotiation is in a better place.
Does that mean a done deal?
The guidance/advice stops short of that.
There is still the talk of “significant gaps” but also a view that perhaps more progress has been made than is being publicly declared.
Friday’s planned all-party meeting here on the political hill did not happen. The DUP and Sinn Fein absent and the two governments left to explain to the SDLP, Ulster Unionists and Alliance.
It brought a terse response from a UUP source: “The DUP and Sinn Fein are running the show and the two governments are bystanders ”
If there is to be a deal, then the sequence is obvious. A two-party agreement first and only if that is achieved will its detail be shared with others.
The DUP and Sinn Fein don’t need the others until/unless this negotiation arrives at the point of a discussion on an all-inclusive Executive.
What am I being told?
That within the talks there is a different focused approach.
The negotiation is described as serious.
Progress is being made, with one source commenting: “If there’s any time for a deal in the next short while, it’s now.”
The caution relates to some significant gaps – yet to be resolved.
The Westminster recess through to February 20th is seen as the endgame – the period within which a deal must be done.
We also know that deadlines here are always stretched.
The mood and substance of these talks have changed. Will it mean a deal?
There is not that certainty, but our ears are open.