Robinson and McGuinness – crunch time not yet

Not a bad prediction.

“Biffo’s efforts to nudge along P&J will mainly be interesting I suspect, because of the body language afterwards. Will Marty and Peter stand together etc? “

And stand together they did after a fashion – at least no boats were burned by either party. They could hardly have avoided the joint appearance, as the Taoiseach was standing just out of shot, wisely avoiding playing piggy in the middle. Yet the contrast with the post-Massarene standing together was stark. Despite Martin’s complaint about Peter’s “solo run” to Gordon Brown, he ducked the direct Christmas deadline question. “The problem” could still be resolved. In this “coming period ” ( how long a period?) he was prepared to make the best efforts he could to see an outcome. Peter’s tetchily regretted Martin’s “tone” ( I think he meant content; he seemed to resent the split being exposed but can hardly have been surprised). He reiterated that the issue of P&J was to be held back until “confidence issues” like parades were resolved – and held back not just by him but by the interim Ashdown report ( “I’ve got it with me”), signed up to by among others, Sinn Fein. So there we are: we seem no further forward, but no further back either.

On the north-south topics actually discussed at the meeting, welcome confirmation came from foreign minister Micheal Martin that the Republic’s government “will not resile from its commitments on capital spending on the A5 and A8 roads.” Avoiding a question on whether the DUP were blocking north-south implementation, he hoped that reviews of the workings of the bodies would be completed ” by the time of the next plenary”.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London