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Richard Haass talks: Hand of history nowhere in sight for waiting media


"So, it's definitely going to be the New Year's Eve Agreement, then?" one weary, but still optimistic, reporter predicted.

The bored-to-tears Press pack had just been told it would be yet another four hours - at least - before anything happened.

This was soon after 7pm yesterday with quite a few journalists marking almost a full fortnight spent in the lobby of the Stormont Hotel.

Somewhere, Richard Haass and Meghan O'Sullivan were working on the seventh draft of their proposals, with no guarantee there wouldn't be an eighth.

It would come around midnight, but exactly when was still not very clear.

"Confusion upon confusion," one veteran political correspondent - not this one - lamented.

The parties were then being given a further two hours to study the document before going into yet another plenary session.

Earlier, a clatter of lavishly-clad ladies had swept in through the revolving doors, but it was looking as if the politicians from the five parties involved in the talks would not be going to the ball. Signs of media mania were sneaking in.

Someone suggested this was the point where in the old days Tony Blair flew in and made some silky and undeliverable promises and everyone hailed the event as a political triumph.

Forget the hand of history: it was as if the hand of hysteria had settled on their shoulders.

Negotiating teams from the DUP, Sinn Fein, Ulster Unionists, SDLP and Alliance had originally planned to kick off the ostensible final day of meetings at 6am yesterday.

Instead, it was looking as if they might get away - with Dr Haass and O'Sullivan due back at their day jobs in New York - by about 6am this morning.

Everyone in the parties kept saying that the final agreement was more important than any deadline, but they have been saying that for days now.

Fewer of them appeared in the lobby of the Stormont Hotel, where the Press are camped out, than on previous days - fearing, perhaps, a mauling.

Fortunes ebbed and flowed along with the moods: Champagne had been spotted in the room where past Press conferences have been held - was there something we weren't being told, asked the pack - but it turned out to be a wedding prop, and the parties had really only just got engaged.

The day before a high-pressure water jetting service called DownDrains had parked its lorry outside the hotel. Last night, it was beginning to look like an omen.

But while expense accounts to buy drinks might have been running low, for most, the glasses of anticipation were still half-ful.

In the absence of anything to report, hacks were tweeting each other across the lobby and debating whether it would be the Stormont or Stormont Hotel Agreement.

Commentator Alex Kane tweeted it could be called the New Year's Resolution.



From Belfast Telegraph