So after a confusing day against a background of tragedy in which it was first reported that the DUP deal would be postponed until next week, Theresa May is meeting the other Assembly parties without them. Make of that what you will. All of Westminster will be agog . The elephant will be in the room in non-corporeal form. May can hardly afford to answer question one, can she?
Mrs O’Neill has already made it clear she will raise the issue of the DUP deal when she meets the Prime Minister.
(Jeremy Corbyn would like to know too).
She hinted that she might demand the scrapping of the DUP deal if it “undermines” the Good Friday Agreement.
If she doesn’t then Gerry Adams certainly will. Will he feel a pang of nostalgia at his first visit to the Downing St sofas since – I don’t know – ages, looking forward eagerly to – as far as I know – his first encounter with Theresa May?
This meeting is brought to you by the team of Brokenshire and the boss that gave as their excuse for deciding not to mediate seriously from the start, that some issues “were devolved”. As if there was any distinction between devolved and not devolved as factors in breakdown. They also shared with the DUP the complaint that Troubles inquiries were focusing too much on the Army, ensuring Adams’ first rejection of Brokenback as a mediator as long ago as March.
So at this late stage, the non unionist parties are all demanding an outside, neutral chair for the Stormont talks, an option provided for in the GFA which Brokenshire has rejected. Will he and May oblige Adams or threaten SF with direct rule after 29 June, if they refuse the prime minister’s appeal to return to Stormont, with Dublin currently preoccupied with a new Taoiseach? What price will Adams try to exact to go back? In their absence could the DUP accept it?
I have an uneasy feeling it won’t go well for May, who is a novice in this business as in so much else.
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