Martin McGuinness: “…it is not conducive to getting a good outcome.”

Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness doesn’t appear to have had much to say today about the behind-closed-doors talks at Stormont – apart from telling the BBC’s Chris Page

The timeframe for a deal in Stormont’s inter-party talks is “days, not weeks”, the deputy first minister has said.

Martin McGuinness said he believed a deal was “achievable” and that the talks process was “intensifying”.

Still, it’s good to see Sinn Féin on the same page as the Prime Minister, David Cameron, at last.  As the BBC will know… [2 Oct]

The prime minister has told the BBC that Northern Ireland inter-party talks have to lead to agreement by the end of October.

And while the Ulster Unionist leader, Mike Nesbitt, welcomed that deadline, Sinn Féin’s Pat Doherty had taken a slightly different line [6 Oct]

Mr Nesbitt, who is attending the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, said his party was playing an “imaginative” role in the talks, but said he was concerned that Sinn Féin and the DUP would come up with an incomplete deal on their own.

“What I fear is there will be a sticking plaster solution carved out between Sinn Féin and the DUP. When we get to that point we’ll make a decision,” he said.

Sinn Féin’s Pat Doherty, who is also at the conference, said his party was in contact with the DUP about finding a solution.

“There is some potential for progress there, but it remains to be seen if both of us can get across the line,” he said.

Deadlines are set and we should try to do that, but I don’t think that’s the crucial thing. I think the crucial thing is that we come to a resolution that all the parties can sign up to.” [added emphasis throughout]

But Martin McGuinness isn’t happy with some others…

Mr McGuinness, of Sinn Féin, claimed there had been an attempt to “sabotage” the talks in the last few weeks.

The deputy first minister added that “the difficulty about recent times is that some parties can’t get out the door quick enough to say something which negatively feeds into what we’re trying to do”.

Mr McGuinness said his own party had not done this, and he did not think the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) had done so either.

But he added: “I do think other parties have done that and it is not conducive to getting a good outcome.”

[But not the DUP? – Ed] No.  Not the DUP…

As for what ‘negativity’ he had in mind… [Sinn Féin ‘must get real about the IRA’? – Ed]  Possibly…

And, as Richard Colwell, of RedC, pointed out

For Sinn Fein the issues in the North in recent weeks appear to have done them no favours with voters, with declines in support occurring despite another high profile Anti-Water tax March in the past week, at which party figures were prominent. The gains they have made during the mid-term have been built on their support for the disenfranchised voters who feel let down by the government. In order to re-gain lost ground, they therefore need to move to settle matters in the North quickly, and so re-focus voters’ attention on the local issues they are fighting for on their behalf.

The question then is if this re-focus will be enough to regain voters, with the backdrop of an increasingly positive economic outlook, and an electorate who broadly believe that the country is currently on the right track.