More Secrets and Guarded Optimism
Having surfed the wave of optimism which went around on Tuesday evening before Wednesday's breakdown I am reluctant to get out my body board again. However a few discussions I have been having tonight make me wonder whether the politicians may be edging towards a deal. On Hearts and Minds Alex Maskey described Sinn Fein's latest discussions with the DUP as frank courteous and professional, whilst a senior DUP figure told me it would be better for the reputation of politics here if the local parties could forge their own agreement rather than relying on the two prime ministers to do all the hard work.
Another Stormont source reckoned the DUP Assembly team is 90% for a deal, and thought a consultation on any proposals which might come out of Hillsborough could be kept to a fortnight.
I don't know whether this is all a reaction to the manifest public anger on the airwaves. But the governments believe that a genuine and serious effort is underway.
The other story of the evening was Stephen Dempster's revelations on Hearts and Minds about yet more secret DUP UUP talks - this time in early December and hosted by the Orange Order. If things were going badly republicans might have seized on the unionist manouvreing as a reason to junk the Hillsborough talks, but so far at any rate Sinn Fein appears fairly relaxed.
More spooked I would say are the Conservatives who were blind sided by their partners the Ulster Unionists. Owen Paterson need not have gone to all that trouble booking Hatfield House if he had been aware that Bobby Saulters was already doing the job of bringing unionists together. The Conservative sources I spoke to tonight expressed some concern and dismay and said they would be looking for an explanation from Sir Reg Empey who attended the talks alongside Peter Robinson.