Belfast Telegraph

Brain Rowan: Peter Robinson and DUP team cross marathon line together

Late last night the finishing line finally came into sight after a stamina-sapping marathon negotiation.

Those involved in days of talking had already covered the running equivalent of 26 miles, and were entering the home straight — those tricky last 385 yards.

In this classic of all Olympic events many a leg has buckled before the race was over.

And on Monday many wobbled inside the DUP.

The party has been reluctant to discuss its secret ballot that day — its response to the Hillsborough proposals as they stood then.

But yesterday Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams used his weekly blog for the Belfast Media Group to present his version of events.

He described the build-up to Monday’s meeting after more than 100 hours of talking: “Peter Robinson brought the outcome of those discussions to his Assembly group and recommended that they accept what he agreed with us.”

According to Adams: “It was put to a vote which he (Robinson) won by 22 to 14. There then followed what appears to have been a very heated debate.” This was the DUP’s marathon wall, that part in the long race that proves most difficult to negotiate.

But those who have experience of the classic 26 miles, 385 yards distance know you have to run it more than once.

And last night in the dark on Stormont’s hill the television pictures showed Peter Robinson with a political spring in his step.

After the disappointment of Monday, this was his second wind.

Some in his party have found this very difficult.

Just last month Lord Morrow predicted that policing and justice powers would not be devolved “during the lifetime of this Assembly”.

The proposed deal has a date of April 2010.

In running terms the principal republican demand in these talks has been delivered in a sprint.

“How does Nigel Dodds cope? How does Gregory Campbell cope? What are the substantive differences (in the proposed deal) between Monday and now?”

These were just some questions being asked by one source just hours before last night’s key Stormont meeting.

For this to work Robinson needed Dodds and Campbell.

Late last night the DUP leader said his Assembly group “unanimously supported” the proposals.

There has been a worry about the balance of this deal — that one side, Sinn Fein, was getting more than the other, the DUP.

“The pain has evened up,” one talks source told this newspaper.

“They’ve (Sinn Fein have) moved quite considerably on the Justice Ministry,” the source added.

That takes you into the fine detail of this negotiation, the line-by-line stuff that some will read to see who got what on each of the issues — policing and justice, parades, Irish language and the other bits and pieces.

Late last night this marathon run used the little energy it had left to get to the finishing line.

As the DUP met, the British and Irish governments were making their plans.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Taoiseach Brian Cowen will travel to Northern Ireland.

This has been a long race at times against the clock.

On this run not everyone has gone at Robinson’s pace — but last night he crossed the line with his team beside him.

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