Back in October whilst we were putting together our own account of the breakdown of the Stormont crisis, the Irish World’s Belfast correspondent Peter Kelly put together his own view of where we were then and where the process might take us.
Since then, most of the negotiation has taken place through bilateral meetings and behind closed doors. Little of substance has emerged since Blair’s speech in Belfast in November.
The apparent disinterest amongst Unionists in the re-negotiations implies that the real business will be between the British government and the IRA. Though last May NI specialist Andy Oppenheimer, wrote extensively on the situation within several of the armed paramilitary groups, Sinn Fein has refused to let out any detail of what the IRA’s next move might be. However it is almost certain to more substantial than its last, fairly limited act of decommissioning.
Clearly the British government is under pressure to bring matters to a head; the Iraq crisis may mean the UK is at war by March or April.
It is rumoured that this weekend may see the beginning of a number of substantial leaks emerge, as various political kites are flown in the run up to the 12th February date announced today as the key day for all party consultations.
However, without an unprecedented move, perhaps of the magnitude that was expected by the Guardian before Christmas, there is little prospect of arriving at a deal that will stick in the timeframe available.