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When politics stands still for such a long time, so a little movement can give rise to suggestions of choreography.

Arlene Foster’s recent outreach, then the  decision to convene a meeting of the Intergovernmental Conference later this month, prompted some to suggest we might just be witnessing the beginnings of some new steps.

It is not what you hear when you speak to those who were on the inside of the talks collapsed by the DUP in February and who will be on the inside of any new negotiation whenever that moment arrives.

“Same old, same old,” was the four-word summary of one insider – meaning in the here-and-now nothing has changed.



Just read Arlene Foster’s twitter account.

After 18 months of political standoff, we know there is no shortcut to some new beginning.

“I don’t see anything like that [new negotiations]happening until the autumn,” one source commented.

It is not said with any confidence or certainty but, rather, stated as the earliest possible opportunity for any new talks process.

It is also spoken in a context, including the “dark cloud” of Brexit and  the “slow burner” that is the RHI Inquiry. On the latter, there is this constant commentary and sense of “more to come”; that, on this issue, the word pellets could yet start another fire.

Then, there is the question of legacy and the consultation that will run to September with, in the words of one source, “people sitting on the emotional edge of their seats everyday”.

We have waited too long on the past, and people may still be left waiting if this consultation is botched.

Politics needs energy, momentum…drive, and there is none of that in anything we are seeing.

Rather, there is this uncertainty and these clouds – Brexit, RHI, Legacy; with a sense that nothing will change until there is an election that changes the Westminster numbers and dynamics and brings a focus back to Stormont.

Arlene Foster and her negotiators could not deliver the draft agreement of February 9th and unless that changes nothing else will  change.

What might we expect out of the intergovernmental conference later this month? Perhaps an effort by Dublin to at least begin to shape the next process and initiative; to try to win the argument for outside facilitators and wider participation in any new talks.

In the meantime, politics is treading water.

There is no choreography – no Stormont dance.





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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

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