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Show looks more like Les Miserables than Thriller

By Noel McAdam

Normally the big shows kick off in the West End before going out to the regions.

But Northern Ireland does things differently and suddenly the Stormont show has shifted to London - although the atmosphere on the hill seemed closer to Les Miserables than Thriller Live yesterday.

The parties are waiting to see whether Theresa May and Arlene Foster turn out to be Dream Girls - or if it's a case of The Play That Goes Wrong.

There are usually two centres of activity - Parliament Buildings, where many of the parties hold their own meetings - and just a half mile away, Stormont Castle, where they meet each other along with the British and Irish governments.

"But it's a three ring circus now," an official quipped.

"Or like one of those big festivals where they have different stages all going on at the same time," another onlooker replied.

"And the headline act isn't on either of ours," someone would have said, had anyone thought of it at the time.

No-one expected the five main parties and London and Dublin governments to hit the ground running. They are all tired after a gruelling seven-week election campaign and haven't had time to catch their breath.

But even allowing for the changed political landscape, things were flat. Secretary of State James Brokenshire didn't even arrive until late afternoon.

Sinn Fein Stormont leader Michelle O'Neill missed the morning meetings because of an appointment with the doctor.

She lost her voice temporarily last week, had to miss one of the main TV debates and probably wants to ensure it doesn't happen at least for the next three weeks, when the talks run into their next deadline.

There was some speculation over whether Ms O'Neill might have time for a trip to the hairdressers. After all she was meeting Arlene Foster for the first time since the DUP leader referred to her as "blonde". In fact, with strong winds yesterday it was a bad hair day for most of those who made it out to the media scrum.

And with everyone aware the evenings start drawing in, in just 10 days - the June 21 equinox - there could be some long days and even longer nights ahead.

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