One thing we Irish (of all political stripes and none) are good at is myth making. In recent years much time, energy and imagination has been devoted to the myth of ‘Plan B’. For most of the period of the Assembly’s suspension it has been lauded by nationalist commentators as the easy route to joint authority. However, in the accelerated evolutionary time frame since St Andrews it appears Plan B was more prosaic than that: devolve limited power to council level, and reserve the ‘sexy’ stuff to Westminster for the foreseeable future. That, as Mitchell Reiss noted last June, would have constituted a collective failure on the part of the whole political class in Northern Ireland. It’s beauty (or injustice as those moderates who were committed to working the Agreement from the start have argued) is that it punishes everyone equally. A proverbial knocking of heads together of parties now profoundly committed to constitutional engagement: not to mention jobs, salaries and enormous potential for political patronage.
What was actually said in those talks late on the Thursday night in St Andrews that knocked some very savvy members of the Northern Irish press corps off their feet on Friday morning remains a mystery. But both main parties will hope it will be quickly forgotten if and when they get the Constitutional Agreement Show back on the road.