Well. That’s it, then. No deal. Hard to believe, given the investment of time and energy and personal reputation Gordon Brown and Brian Cowen put into it. Both men were clearly sleep-deprived, satisfaction-deprived and sign-off-deprived. And Sinn Fein weren’t looking too thrilled either.
So now what? It looks as though Brown and Cowen are hoping that there’ll be second thoughts by … Well, who? The impression they gave was that they hoped both parties would have second thoughts. But given that all parties – SDLP, Sinn Fein, British and Irish governments, Alliance – just about everybody has concluded that Policing and Justice should be transferred, should have happened long ago, and given that Brown named dates for that to happen – March for consideration, early May for putting in place – there’s a hint that it’s the DUP who are stalling over something in the two-governments’ package.
We’ll know on Friday, but the ferocity with which Mr Dodds called anybody who said the DUP had promised anything at St Andrew’s a liar, you get the feeling that the party doth protest too much. It looks as though the two governments are hoping that the revealing – or threat of revealing – the reasonable terms on offer will make any party that doesn’t buy in look like the one which brought the whole edifice down. At the moment the DUP look like the prime candidates for that slot, given their concern to pave a way for Orange feet to do what they do best – walk in nationalist areas where they’re not wanted. And the way they’ve been repeatedly trying, with Dodds and others, to paint a picture with Sinn Fein as the power-sharing destroyers, I get the feeling they’re a little ill at ease.
The most astonishing thing of all, of course, is the chutzpah of Peter Robinson. The man who presented himself as broken in that interview, the man who needed time off to look after his wife, the man who is fighting allegations that he failed to do what he should have as First Minister and reported to the authorities his wife’s tricky little financial transactions – there he was striding about HIllsborough followed by a respectful DUP pack, including a submissive-looking Arlene Foster. Are the DUP hoping that their electorate will forget the flood of soap-opera headlines that the Robinson family generated during January? Even more amazing – could it be that THEY WILL BE PROVED RIGHT? Watch this blog…