Political deadlock Haass to end
Published 03/01/2014 | 01:30
One striking aspect of the failure of the Haass talks was the relative lack of public interest in one of the most significant series of political negotiations in the past year.
At one time the major developments such as crucial votes of confidence in unionist leaders, and ultimately the Good Friday Agreement itself, generated significant attention from the public on all sides.
The final stages of the Haass talks occurred at the peak of Christmas and during the celebrations around the New Year, but that is no excuse for the lack of public engagement over the outcome.
The collective boredom with the talks was not born just from a colossal disinterest all round.
Basically the majority of people believed that they were not going to solve anything, so most of them stayed with television programmes such as sport, more Sherlock Holmes and even Mrs Brown's Boys rather than switching over to the coverage of the Haass talks.
In his final report Dr Haass, who deserves our thanks as well as our sympathy, has given a stark warning. He believes that we are standing at the crossroads, and that further delays will risk an increase in the levels of public disengagement from politics.
While we agree with this analysis, we have some worrying news for Dr Haass in that the disengagement from politics here is already well under way. Generations of young people are growing up who are not intent on taking over the mantle from our current group of deeply uninspiring politicians, and are convinced that there is nothing to be gained by becoming involved in politics or debate.
Even though people did not expect much from the Haass talks, imagine what a different start it could have been to 2014 if some kind of a political agreement had been reached.
Perhaps the many people already disinterested in politics might have detected a slightly warmer political temperature, or even a little hope, as we entered another New Year.
Sadly, however, we are back in the same old political deadlock with no sense of expectation, confidence or belief that the parties who could not reach agreement in the full glare of the talks can hammer out anything meaningful on their own in the back rooms of Stormont.
The failure of the Haass talks has not made things any better. Sadly they have made them even worse.