25 Jan 2010

Can crunch talks smooth the Stormont waters?

Martin McGuinness didn’t wait long after his 30-minute talk with Peter Robinson.

He was on the phone to Gordon Brown soon after, just before the Irish PM Brian Cowen came through the door of No. 10 – the spirit of his call was, it is believed, I’m about to resign.

That would mean fresh Stormont elections and no one is sure whether the results would allow power-sharing to be rebuilt again in a hurry.

Premiers Brown and Cowen at the close of their talks tried to look and sound as positive as possible but Prime Ministers don’t lightly clear their diaries and fly off.

I understand the stumbling block, if that’s the right word, remains the Parades Commission. The DUP wants it abolished. Sinn Fein say over our dead bodies.

I hesitate with the word “stumbling block” because there is a school of opinion that says the DUP has hit on the Commission as a negotiating ploy in order to avoid fixing a date for the devolution of policing and justice.

Talks between the Prime Ministers and the main party leaders are due to start around now in Stormont.

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