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The talk in the background is that the next and latest talks initiative here scheduled to begin next Tuesday will have just a short time to prove itself.

Prove that this is not another of those roundabout processes that spins us into dizziness – breaks one deadline and then the next; raises hopes like last February and then dashes and denies them as if they never existed.

MP Nigel Dodds repeated the preferred DUP option in a number of broadcast interviews on Monday – that the political institutions on Stormont’s hill should be restored immediately alongside a parallel talks process.

That is not going to happen. Too much damage was done at the end of the last talks for there to be any trust in such an approach.

Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald believes time has run out on this stalemate; that if these latest talks cannot reach an agreement on equality issues, then the two governments must intervene.

Beyond the start date of May 7, London and Dublin have not yet set out the precise detail of this latest initiative – the issues to be discussed or the absolute time frame for decisions.

The suggestion I am hearing is that progress, or a lack of such, will be called within a short time of the talks commencing; that the idea is not to go on and on.

“I don’t see it going anywhere,” a veteran of past negotiations told me. “The issues are too complex.” Those issues including the fallout from RHI and Brexit.

Then, there is legacy.

The fight for the Past is becoming more and more toxic; with the battle around protections for military veterans threatening to become the next flag protest.

This latest talks initiative is a response to the challenge made by Father Martin Magill at the funeral of murdered journalist Lyra McKee.

It is the governments trying to do something – but, what if?

What if time really has run out on this political stalemate and, if there is no agreement, within a few short weeks?

Will the governments really intervene?

For almost two and a half years, they have given too much space and a stage to this Stormont farce.

 Would they really put a bolt on the door, call an Assembly election or act over the head of the DUP?

That would be leadership in this moment. I’ll believe it when I see it.

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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


  1. Why should any government intervene.This faffing about on the perimeter has become a regular fall back position for the parties in Northern Ireland.As long as some allowances and pay is going into their bank accounts why should they work.If the guy collecting the supermarket trolleys was told if he didn’t turn up he’d still get paid….d’ye think he’d be shoving ‘Lund supermarket car parks….No.Stop their Pay,Allowances,Close their offices.Leave them as they want to be ….UNEMPLOYED!!!!

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