In the early summer of 2019, one of the first documents to leak from the resumed Stormont talks was marked official sensitive and described as a non-paper.
It was a discussion document on Rights, Language and Identity.
A couple of sentences jumped out: “This paper deliberately focuses on the possible content of legislation, as opposed to the form of legislation that might be agreed in the context of an overall agreement. It is assumed that discussions on form would follow any broad agreement on content.”
Clearly, the plan was to get the detail agreed and to then work on the title.
This far into this latest phase of these negotiations – and up against Monday’s deadline – the battle continues.
The languages piece is expected to have some overarching title but, within it, will there be something that stands out as Irish Language Act?
It is a tug-of-titles – not yet won or lost.
“We’re not there [in terms of an overall agreement]– not enough tied down,” one insider commented on Wednesday.
This partly explains the delay in the expected publication of the governments’ text as a basis for agreement.
On Wednesday, we kicked our heels waiting for that.
Within any overarching piece, there will be a section on the Irish Language.
How will it be titled?
Will it have no name, because it is something that some will not – dare not -speak?
If so, then this is a silly game.
Anyone with an ounce of wit looking at a section on the Irish language will know exactly what it is.
Try convincing someone that your cat is your dog.
There has to be a way through this nonsense; something that looks like leadership.
On another issue, the petition of concern, the talk on Wednesday was of this being another of the unresolved issues.
We have been hearing that four parties have found common ground; this around strict criteria for use of the blocking mechanism, a possible adjustment upwards of the number of signatures required and, in disputed cases, some outside adjudication.
The DUP is not on this ground. You would think the focus in the negotiation would be to try to move one party towards the four.
“They’re still trying to do it the other way,”
a talks source commented.
The DUP wants a stand-alone POC – no adjudication from outside the Stormont system.
One source suggested the idea was floated of being able to take outside advice, but it would not be binding.
It would be like having a referee without a whistle.
There has to be something different about any new Stormont and, without proper reforms, there is the danger of losing the possibility of a 5-party Executive.
The governments should have their eyes open to that reality.
Since 2017 and the last Assembly Election, the mood and numbers have changed dramatically.
This negotiation does not represent that reality.