Northern Ireland

Stormont talks process: Politicians more focused on making controversial remarks than progress?

Image caption All of the Stormont parties have said they remain committed to negotiations, but the secretary of state said the chances of reaching a deal are 'slim'

The political talk this week has not been much about the inter-party talks.

Instead, the focus has been on revelations about Stormont expenses - and controversial remarks by senior politicians.

In his DUP conference speech last weekend, Gregory Campbell held up a yogurt pot as he spoke again about his parody of the Irish language.

He insisted the DUP would not agree to an Irish language act, saying they would regard Sinn Féin's wish list as "no more than toilet paper".

A few days later, the Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams apologised for using offensive language at a public meeting, but said he was referring to "bigots", and not all unionists.

In the meeting in Enniskillen, he also said: "The Trojan horse of the entire republican strategy is to reach out to people on the basis of equality."

'Mood music'

Image caption Dr Paul Nolan said the effect of each party's remarks would significantly change the mood of the inter-party talks

While the parties criticised each other, the Secretary of State Theresa Villiers said the prospect of clinching a final deal in the talks was "slim".

Political researcher, Dr Paul Nolan, said he believed the harsh words outside the talks would have an impact on the political process.

"The message going out is that they will not sell out their own voters," he said.

"But in these cases, I think the choice of words was so dramatically bad as to do more than just that. I think they will have changed the mood music inside the talks."

The rows over the remarks by Mr Campbell and Mr Adams have eclipsed some other stories this week.

One of them was the appearance by the Catholic Bishop of Derry, Donal McKeown, at a seminar at the DUP conference.

'Rough language'

Bishop McKeown suggests he has been disappointed at events since then.

"Sometimes politicians work on the assumption that we put them in power and we pay them to look after their party political interests," he said.

"We actually pay them to look after our interests. To find political leaders using rough language and crude language and mocking language makes it more difficult for people on the ground.

"If you find adults talking coarsely about each other, it's hard to blame 16 and 17 year olds when they do the same."

Image caption Lynn Carvill of Women's Tec said politicians needed to understand the impact their behaviour was having on society

People who are seeing the effects of impending budget cuts are also feeling frustrated.

'Art of the possible'

Lynn Carvill runs Women's Tec, which trains women in non-traditional skills.

She said: "I think hundreds of people working in the community and voluntary sector will be put on protective redundancy notice in the run-up to Christmas.

"Politicians need to understand the impact which their behaviour or lack of decision-making has on the ground. Politics is the art of the possible and they must make this work."

All the parties say they are committed to the negotiations.

But according to the secretary of state, "significant differences" remain between them.

The View will be broadcast on BBC One Northern Ireland on Thursday at 22:35 GMT.

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