Public will not easily forgive if our politicians fail to do deal
There is an air of sad familiarity about the latest Stormont talks which have generated a great deal of discussion, but have produced little of concrete worth to the people of Northern Ireland.
The Prime Minister and Taoiseach have left with the air of senior politicians who have done the best they can in very difficult circumstances, but they have received little thanks from the other participants.
Mr Cameron claims that he was offering some £1bn of spending power for the coming years if agreement could be reached at Stormont, but Sinn Fein has alleged that there is no "new money" on the table, and that no "credible financial package" is on offer.
First Minister Peter Robinson suggested that the Northern Ireland parties had not sufficiently challenged the Prime Minister but also hinted, tellingly, that Mr Cameron would have been more flexible if he had been convinced that the vexed question of welfare reform was going to be resolved.
Finance is important for any settlement, but it was unedifying to see our politicians yet again holding out the begging bowl, particularly as they have produced little evidence so far of being able to take tough decisions themselves.
Of course, Mr Cameron could have offered more money to help blur the rough edges of the proposed welfare reforms, but on the other hand he might well have justification in asking himself why he should go the extra mile if the Stormont politicians were unwilling to do the same.
We are now left with another unsatisfactory pre-Christmas situation, and it is up to our politicians yet again to demonstrate that they are capable at last of producing a credible agreement. There are still large issues at stake, but they should resist the temptation of running the whole show off the road on a point of principle.
That would be sheer recklessness, and the people of Northern Ireland on all sides would not easily forgive any further evidence of the failure of our politicians to reach an agreement. The sooner an agreement is reached, the better.