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Remember the talk at the outset of these Talks? That narrow window in which to push through an agreement to rebuild the broken politics of this place.

Weeks later, the chat now is about the ‘twelfth window’ and the nervousness of July when the instincts of some will be to pull or hide behind the curtain. 

Even the most optimistic in this Talks Play no longer expect a deal in the here and now.

The narrow window has now become that twelfth window that doesn’t fit.

How to close it and for how long are the questions awaiting answers?

Will the talks be parked or paused or will there be a public commentary on progress and of working on, even if some of the workers are on a go-slow in this twelfth period?

There is concern about any delay. 

Tuesday’s stage or staged appearance by Boris Johnson was a reminder that there is another negotiation that could soon take precedence over this one.

Confidence and Supply Mark Two and the next Tory/DUP arrangement.

So, how do we describe the state-of-play in the Stormont Talks?

One negotiator thought out loudly about Purgatory and Limbo.


The SDLP, Ulster Unionist and Alliance teams are still at Stormont, but these talks are principally about the DUP and Sinn Fein. 

The route to any five-party agreement has to firstly find a way to a two-party deal.

That road is far from clear.

There is talk that there are solutions to be found if people want to do it – meaning make a deal; but this negotiation is behind the February 2018 draft agreement. 

On one key issue, there is not a stand-alone Irish Language Act on the table of these talks but, rather, a paper discussion on three commissioners for Irish language, Ulster Scots and Identity.

Creating infrastructure and ignoring the elephant in the room was how one source described this development. Perhaps, more accurately, it is an attempt to create another room in which to hide the elephant or the ‘crocodile’.

There is no suggestion that the DUP will agree to an Irish Language Act – and there is nothing to suggest that Sinn Fein will step back from that demand.

Expect a move at Westminster to further extend the period for the formation of an Executive probably to stretch across this calendar year into 2020.

The narrow window for talks is becoming ever wider, and there are those who believe that an opportunity has been missed; that if something was going to get done, then it should have been done by now.

“You can talk about windows,” said one insider – “but we are now through the looking glass.”

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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 and contributed chapters to 'Reporting the Troubles' and 'Brexit and Northern Ireland: Bordering on Confusion'.

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