Richard Haass talks: There's no shortage of comedians fetching up at Stormont Hotel
Gales of laughter swept into the foyer from the main room of the Stormont Hotel yesterday. But they were not – unsurprisingly – emanating from the Haass talks suite.
Indeed, as rumours spread of the parties coming back the day after Boxing Day, some of the participants seemed closer to tears.
Veteran comic Gene Fitzpatrick was holding forth at a separate Christmas lunch and couldn't, of course, hope to get away without mentioning the other less celebratory event.
"There are more comedians over there than there are here," he quipped.
There were smiles, too – though some of them rueful – when loyalist serial protesters Willie Frazer and Jamie Bryson turned up at the hotel.
Fresh from his recent charity bed push – without a bed – Mr Frazer was not granted an audience with Richard Haass and Meghan O'Sullivan.
There was just relief that he had not turned up in fancy dress – like he did as radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza for a recent court appearance.
"There's nothing like the Christmas spirit," a former Government official said as it appeared the talks were running into the ground.
"And this is nothing like the Christmas spirit."
Although earlier in the week choirs sang in the lobby of the hotel, there was no sign of the politicians singing off the same hymn sheet – just yet.
And yet there was speculation that some Christmas cheer had entered the talks process when three brimming pints of beer were seen being taken in the direction of the Haass offices.
It wasn't long, however, before the Press pack was assured they were only en route to help batter the cod for lunch.