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A case of 'as you were' as talks resume

By Noel McAdam

The spirit of grace and goodwill from Martin McGuinness's funeral might have been expected to permeate the talks which his resignation as Deputy First Minister brought about.

But, in fact, there appeared to be a hardening of attitude and negotiating stance from Sinn Fein yesterday, as the hard-balling towards hammering out a deal finally began.

From early yesterday, its officials were briefing that the party's insistence it will not nominate a Deputy First Minister if the DUP puts forward Arlene Foster to resume as First Minister had not changed.

The first unionist talks insider to appear outside from the morning meetings said, grimly: "Sinn Fein is upping the ante."

But another unionist - both not wanting to be identified - said it was what they had been anticipating.

"There is a grim determination to the Sinn Fein approach; they repeat the same things over and over. They want to see the implementation of other agreements with the Government in the past which they say have not been implemented."

On Thursday evening at around 7pm, the parties received invitations to meetings starting at 9am yesterday. Two hours later, the starting point had been put back two hours.

Earlier indications that overnight bags and midnight oil might be required for last night were watered down - though not being ruled out altogether for the weekend.

"This is the way they love to do things - hot house," a weary party official moaned.

Outside, it was unrelenting heat and sunshine in the back garden near the Glass House where the media have been centred.

But it could not entirely mask the apparent increasing gloom inside the talks room.

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