Jock-eying for position.

An optimistic appraisal of negotiations from the Scotsman’s Duncan Hamilton who suspects that the participants are playing to their respective galleries.

When a great deal of swallowing and lip biting is worth the effortExpect political posturing and sabre-rattling. Those positive words from Mr Paisley came only a few days after his claim that the IRA should be “made to wear sackcloth and ashes” as humiliation for their crimes. There will be more to come as the DUP leader seeks to reassure his grassroots that he has not lost his firebrand image and has not been seduced by the process of negotiation. Hence the latest spat over whether there will need to be photographs of the IRA weapons or not. Don’t be fooled – this is no more than a chance for Messrs Adams and Paisley to flex their political muscle. Those angry exchanges may seem destructive but in fact they are crucial.

For the problem in Northern Ireland is a grassroots problem. It is not the politicians who cannot work together, but rather extreme core constituencies who are reluctant to take risks and who view every compromise as a sell-out. Gerry Adams and Ian Paisley coming to a cosy agreement is not credible in the macho world of Northern Ireland politics – there has to be at least a veneer of political combat. An agreement which lacks the usual cocktail of brinkmanship, crisis and hostility will immediately be suspected.