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Strangford Record Attempt

Mark Devenport | 15:04 UK time, Friday, 22 January 2010

Could Jonathan Bell become our shortest serving MLA? The Ards councillor has just been declared as the DUP replacement for Iris Robinson. But at the same time as the Chief Electoral Officer Douglas Bain published his official confirmation of Mr Bell's appointment, the Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams posted an entry on his Leargas blog confirming that so far as republicans are concerned the current phase of negotiations is over.

Mr Adams didn't miss and hit the wall accusing the DUP of ham acting when they complained they were sitting around for talks yesterday (he says he told them the night before the negotiations were over) and of telling a fib when they declared they didn't want to negotiate on a Sunday, but in fact jetted off to London to have secret talks with the Tories.

All of which makes it hard to imagine the talks teams returning to their work in a jovial cooperative mood anytime soon. And on the crunch issue of parades, Mr Adams claims the DUP is playing the orange card adding "sorry folks - it doesn't work that way anymore".

P.S. I've just noticed that Gerry A changed the title of his entry after posting it. To start with it was called "The Game Is Up, But It's Not Over" but then it changed to "There Are No Preconditions". Is this politically significant. If not, why switch to a less catchy title?

P.P.S I am just back from interviewing Peter Robinson and Sir Reg Empey. The DUP leader was exuding an impression of being calm in the face of the Sinn Fein President's blog. Although he told me it would be better for the local parties to sort matters out themselves, I got the impression that he is preparing for governmental intervention.

When questioned about the prospect of Sinn Fein becoming Stormont's largest party, neither unionist leader would rule out their respective parties merging into one bloc. Although the Conservatives claimed there was no discussion of a hung Westminster parliament during the secret talks in England last Sunday, senior DUP sources are talking up the significance a single unionist force could have for the parliamentary arithmetic at Westminster. They are pointing out that 12 pro-Conservative seats equals 24 in a balanced parliament...of course that presumes both North Down and Fermanagh South Tyrone could be counted in such a bloc which is a big assumption. Nevertheless it gives a sense of the kind of calculations now being made.

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