Belfast Telegraph

Brian Rowan: Northern Ireland negotiations in waiting room

By Brian Rowan

The Hillsborough negotiation is now in a kind of political waiting room.

It is waiting for Peter Robinson and waiting for the next meeting of his Assembly Party.

More specifically it is waiting for the result of that party’s next vote.

Monday — despite all the brave faces that were put on it — was not a good day for the DUP.

Too many voted against the Hillsborough proposals as they stood at that time.

There has been more talking since, more talking before the next attempt to sell the deal.

Sinn Fein — Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness — are giving Peter Robinson the space and time he needs to work.

At this point in this negotiation there is no threat that Mr McGuinness could walk as Deputy First Minister.

Such a move and such pressure would put Mr Robinson and the DUP in an impossible position.

The deal would be doomed. So, republicans are waiting.

They are in the cosy chairs — the DUP in the hot seat.

“He’s (Mr Robinson’s) not going to split his party,” one source said last night.

Could they lose people?That’s a question I put to someone in the DUP.

“No we will not — not at all,” was the response.

I guess the source would say that. But others still have concerns.

“You are still down to getting the big boys onboard,” a talks insider commented — a reference to those very senior sceptics including Gregory Campbell, Willie McCrea, David Simpson and Lord Morrow.

There is a view that if Mr Robinson can get those “big hitters” onboard then the rest — or most of the rest — will follow.

Some talks sources are suggesting that there is still a bit of work to be done on the deal, but that gaps are “narrowing down”.

“I still think there is the possibility of securing a deal this week if there is the will to resolve the outstanding issues,” a DUP MP said last night.

This is about much more than a deal. If this negotiation fails then Stormont could collapse. And in that circumstance no one knows how long it would take to rebuild.

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