Talks end before they begin

A couple of things to note on the sudden collapse of talks today.. again.. Secretary of State for Wales and Northern Ireland Peter Hain began the day by setting down yet another deadline – this time 8th March – for the parties to reach agreement on amendments to the NI (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill.. it seems somewhat optimistic. But no sooner had that been done than Sinn Féin withdrew from the scheduled talks, saying that the formula for talks, which Hain described as “parallel meetings consecutively on the same issues with all the parties”, were “totally unacceptable”.. So, does that mean no-one knew in advance what the formula for today was going to be? Seems unlikely to me. Worth noting the subsequent spin by the Secretary of State, after SF had refused to participate and the Ulster Unionists sent, what is described in the report as a notetaker, to the meeting –

“We tried a particular formula and that didn’t work,” he said.

“Nobody would have been excluded, there were parallel meetings consecutively on the same issues with all the parties.

We decided there was no point in proceeding since they were not all-party discussions as we had intended.”[emphasis added]

And, as this UTV report notes, an NIO spokesman also tried to downplay the row

“We all know what the DUP position is and we tried to come up with a forum to enable the parties to reach consensus,” a spokesman said.

“It didn`t work out but we shouldn`t lose sight of the fact that there was a lot of constructive engagement between parties in bilateral meetings today.”