The resumption of the Hillsborough talks today is a welcome sign that both sides are still willing to engage in discussions, but our recent history is such that no final outcome can be guaranteed.
Whatever the result of these tortuous meetings, which must end at some point, the public has made clear its views during the past week and more. People are absolutely fed up at the sight of well-paid politicians endlessly discussing issues which should have been settled long ago.
The politicians may claim that these situations are much more difficult than outsiders realise, but politics ought to be the art of the possible, and our public representatives have been less than inspiring in recent times.
While credit must be given to them for at least staying the course up to now, people are anxious to move on. There are so many urgent issues to be tackled, and so little time to address them.
The cuts in public spending which have been outlined already — and the prospect of yet more to come — should concentrate minds on the real challenges facing us in employment, health, education and other subjects which are important to every citizen, whatever his or her political opinions and cultural background. There are no simple answers to many of these issues, and that is all the more reason why our politicians should knuckle down to business and make up for lost time.
The past week has not only been frustrating for the public, but also embarrassing because the Prime Minister and Taoiseach have been obliged yet again to help us settle our differences.
Now is the time for our own politicians to demonstrate maturity and get on with the job.
Any failure to do so will not be forgiven.