Belfast Telegraph

Stormont talks: The public is not in a mood to countenance failure

By Liam Clarke

Have the inter-party talks any future? It depends on who you listen to.

"The chances of clinching a final deal look slim," according to Theresa Villiers, the Secretary of State, who is chairing them and should know.

But ex-Senator Gary Hart - who flies in on Monday to represent the US in the process - has a very different view.

"There is not going to be failure... the talks are going to succeed and we in the United States are going to do everything we can to ensure that they succeed and that they continue to be successful throughout 2015 and beyond," he said.

One thing is for sure, there is no excuse for failure and the public is unlikely to listen to any excuses our politicians make.

At present their public standing is at an all-time low, or it would be if it hadn't been scraping along the bottom already.

As Ms Villiers and Mr Hart spoke, the focus is on how much money politicians get out of the taxpayers' pocket.

It is unfair to some MLAs who behave conscientiously, but the public image of them as a group is that they are good at getting money out of the system and maximising their own finances - but not so good at handling the public finances.

The amount of debt that has been run up is now becoming hard to grasp.

It is hundreds of millions of pounds in a fairly deprived province of 1.8 million people.

The size of our government is obscene - 108 MLAs, droves of backroom staff and ministries in abundance.

People expect results, not excuses, from this cosseted group - and they expect them soon.

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