Brexit is not the only issue going round in circles. Northern Ireland is seeing a never ending cycle of deadlines, talks, more talks and no action.
Despite Theresa May and Leo Varadkar visiting to mediate, this week saw the collapse of the latest round of negotiations at Stormont, Belfast, and a case of “She Said, She Said” between the DUP’s Arlene Foster and Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald. The key is disagreement over an Irish Language Act. McDonald has indicated this was on the table in draft form. Mrs Foster, however, says it was not. Even the level of disagreement cannot be agreed.
More broadly, the PM has been criticised for the failure of this process. This visit was another embarrassing moment for the PM. Her presence yielded nothing and was described by one senior DUP figure as “a distraction.” Hardly the warm embrace of a parliamentary partner. However, the reality is that this will do little to impact on the wider DUP and Conservative relationship. The DUP are staunch Unionists and, in this context, see the Conservatives in Downing Street, as an infinitely safer bet than Jeremy Corbyn’s Republican friendly Labour Party. For their part, the Tories are, in a sense, happy for the current stalemate to continue, as long as peace remains in NI.
Perhaps the most striking thing is that this – the embarrassing moments for the PM, the inaction over Northern Ireland – all feels so normal now. The danger in Northern Ireland is always that this stalemate may one day take a turn for the worse.