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It was a day when the ‘B’ words fell from the political dictionary.

The bluff and bluster of Boris; all the talk of Brexit, the border and the backstop, and SDLP deputy leader Nichola Mallon’s description of a “blunt” first meeting with the new Prime Minister.

It was also a day of protest on the political hill – related to jobs, legacy issues and the Irish language.

Politicians were confronted with demands that will make or break the Stormont negotiations.


Having been booed over several days, Boris Johnson kept his head down on this visit. 

He was here to show his face in a place where the ten votes of the DUP at Westminster still matter in terms of holding up and propping up his government.

Will his presence have made any difference in terms of the talks and that effort to restore the Stormont Executive and Assembly?

Probably not.

New Secretary of State Julian Smith has asked the five independent working group leads across the various strands of this negotiation to hold yet further meetings and report back to him early next week. 

Another ‘B’ word comes to mind – ‘bolloxology’.

Those working groups, including on rights, language and identity, are talked out.

What more would the Secretary of State need to hear from them?

There will either be a stand-alone Irish language Act or there won’t. Thus far, it is not  on the table in these talks. Instead, a three-commissioners model is being discussed on Identity (including promoting Britishness), Irish Language and Ulster Scots.

Anything, everything, but an Act.

On another issue, the planned legacy process is unravelling. 


The parties may well have been told of the government’s commitment to the Stormont House Agreement structure but, elsewhere, there is talk of a qualified statute of limitations for armed forces and a new Office for Veterans’ Affairs has been established adding to suspicion that a soldier amnesty is in the pipeline.

This was a day that in its comings and goings had a busy appearance, but nothing really happened and nothing changed.


What would be the logic of any deal now knowing the path that Johnson is following?

The DUP spoke of strengthening the Union, delivering Brexit and restoring devolution.

You can’t have all three. It’s like asking for a ’99’ with five flakes.

With Boris on that flight path to the ‘Brexit Triangle’ something will be lost – STORMONT? THE UNION?

Alliance leader Naomi Long said her only plan was to see Stormont restored, but others thought out loudly about scenarios if the talks fail – a border poll, direct rule or joint authority.

Wednesday changed nothing. Boris left the room in the mess in which he found it. He may well have added to it.

That mess is the pretend and pantomime politics and parliament on Stormont’s hill.

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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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