Just read the dictionary definition of deadline.
‘A date or time before which something must be completed.’
It is easily understood.
But, at Stormont, and in the politics of that place, such strict definitions are ignored.
Weeks ago, an observer of the latest talks gave me another description of deadline.
He used the word elastic and since then we have watched the stretching of this talks timeframe..
The current negotiations have already passed through several deadlines and are now entering a fourth phase since the Assembly Election on March 2nd.
So, the Secretary of State has introduced legislation to extend the period in which a new Executive could be formed.
The date is June 29th – 21 days after the June 8th General Election.
In recent days, we have watched and listened at Stormont as priorities and focus have shifted.
Theresa May’s statement in Downing Street on Tuesday changed everything.
Political deals are not done in the jaws of an election.
Read that tweet from Sinn Fein’s National Chair Declan Kearney – his view that the British Government has “formally disengaged” from the political process here.
There is a thinking shift towards the election; talk of pacts, positioning, getting ready for that next voting and counting.
Think of the last numbers in March – how the unionist majority disappeared in the Assembly, the nationalist surge, and the worrying within the unionist community about what next.
A border poll?
Unionists will be thinking about all of that – how to halt the charge; the best pact arrangements – thinking and talking about the best candidates with the best chances.
So, very few at Stormont are talking about an agreement before June 8 and, after that date, there is little time to make the deal that is being demanded.
June 29th – Brokenshire’s latest deadline – is very close to July 11/12.
Will there be any mood for an agreement on legacy issues, an Irish Language Act, marriage equality, Bill of Rights – a Civic Forum?
How much more stretching is there in that deadline elastic?
For all the talking to this point, there is no sense of an agreement being close or closer.
Those who describe the March 2 results as a vote for devolution ignore or miss the point that the nationalist surge came after Martin McGuinness resigned and pulled those institutions down.
This is part of the new reality. Another False Start Agreement won’t work.
The Talks will begin (again) on 29th June… sounds like a good time for the summer recess! Oh dear!