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Brian Rowan: Into unknown territory as parties talk through the deadline

It was meant to be the day — decision time on a story that is draining the patience of those watching in on Hillsborough.

Inside the castle they fed them cold meats and salad and let them talk through the Brown-Cowen deadline as if it wasn’t there.

This marathon negotiation has marched in one direction and then another.

Someone who has been there for most of the week left early last night.

“Nobody can help them other than themselves,” the source said, a reference to the big two players, the DUP and Sinn Fein.

There was talk last night of cold feet as well as cold meat.

“I get the sense that people are extremely, extremely nervous,” the loyalist political leader Dawn Purvis said.

“The process is at a defining point,” another source commented.

How many defining points has that been in this week of talking and talking and talking and talking?

The suggestion throughout much of yesterday was that the balance of the deal being worked on is not right, that what republicans want on policing and justice is there, clear, and is going to happen.

We know the date that is pencilled in for the transfer of policing and justice powers is pre-General Election.

And that date was the Sinn Fein focus going into these

talks. There is no such certainty on the question of parades, the issue the DUP is trying to move.

It is about talking and walking — talking about changing processes to consider and decide on parades in the hope that Orangemen might yet get to walk where they haven’t walked for quite some time.

“The stuff around parades is aspirational. They (the DUP) want guarantees, a source commented.

On this issue there is no such thing — and no mood on the republican side to deliver marching feet on the ground.

“They don’t look as if they (the DUP) are up for it (a deal),” one source said.

Another suggested the very same about Sinn Fein.

Late last night they were still talking on the same issues they have been discussing for a long, long time.

If the Brown-Cowen formula for progress has to be published it will mean that this negotiation has been deemed a failure.

And if the negotiation fails then Stormont could fall.

Maybe that is why the deadline was ignored — and work continued on making a local deal.

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