“THEY DON’T F***ING GET IT”  – Brian Rowan watches as the Castle Talks Collapse…

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At shortly after 5pm on Sunday the ground gave way under the Stormont Castle Talks.

Just hours previously, an insider had given me his assessment of this dialogue and the chances of agreement: “I think we are in theatre at this point,” he said.

Surgery – I asked.

No, more the last-minute drama of negotiations was the gist of his response.

“We’ll know in 24 hours,” he added.

We knew much sooner than that.

The signal came around lunch time. A statement from Gerry Adams that there had been “no substantive progress across all of the key issues” – and a statement in which he spoke of “grave concern”.

Hours later, the party’s leader in the north Michelle O’Neill coloured in the detail, saying the talks process had run its course and that Sinn Fein would not be nominating for the position of Speaker or for Executive Office as of now.

Ms O’Neill said the governments and the DUP had failed in their approach to the talks; something put more bluntly by a party source: “They don’t f***ing get it,” he said.

What now? What next?

Well it is clear that the type of patch-up negotiation that has been tolerated in the past will no longer do.

“Everything has changed,” a republican commented.

So, no return to the status quo means what it says on the tin.

The battle for a stand-alone or self-standing Irish Language Act was not won in these talks. Nor has the detail of a legacy process been agreed.

On this issue, there is talk that Secretary of State James Brokenshire will now opt for some type of public engagement. It needs much more than that.

It needs a completely different approach and it needs to be taken away from the governments and the political parties.

How many times do they need to fail on this issue to get the message they can’t – or more accurately – won’t agree on this issue.

This needs an international approach. It needs a realistic assessment of what information will be released from the many corners of the conflict period and it needs to address the issue of imprisonment. What it does not need is a process controlled by the British Government – a player pretending it is a referee.

These talks were not going to deliver a comprehensive implementation agreement within a three week time frame. There was too much to do and not enough time to do it.

Ulster Unionist negotiator Tom Elliott made that clear on Friday: “There’s a long way to go on this,” he said – “but a short time to do it.”

Asked, those few days ago, about the potential of a deal by Monday, he replied “limited”.

There is a decision to be made now on another election or some other next step.

Who wants Stormont mostly?  Who needs it mostly?

There is time now to think about those questions.

To reflect on how politics has changed utterly since the Martin McGuinness resignation and the election that followed.

And to think about the type of change and implementation of agreements that will be needed if this political Humpy-Dumpty is to be put back together again.

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About Author

Brian Rowan

Brian Rowan is a journalist/author. A former BBC correspondent in Belfast, four times he has been a category winner in the Northern Ireland Press and Broadcast Awards. He is the author of several books on the peace process. His latest book (published by Merrion Press) POLITICAL PURGATORY – the battle to save Stormont and the play for a New Ireland is now available at www.merrionpress.ie


  1. How can they continue when past agreements haven’t even been implemented. One thinks if RHI had not happened we would have ended up in this situation sooner or later, Sinn Féin’s base was erroding.

  2. John Mc Guckin on

    We need to be rid of DUP and Sinn Fein, both party’s are representative of sectarianism. Let’s have a women’s party formed and installed, perhaps then we will get something done on a permanent scale. Difficult enough to get men to go too the supermarket and get the proper groceries. Yet we trust them to govern.

  3. It’s another Stormont pantomime not a re-run of the GFA vote. Nothing changes without consent in the 6. DUP hold significant seats in the Commons. The very most that will happen in this latest installment is an extended time frame for sorting out the impasse. This suits the Unionists more than SF, neither of which will turn down the gravy boat for too much longer!

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