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John Manley: Gerry Adams and Arlene Foster may lack necessary rapport to overcome differences

Sinn Féin leader in the north Michelle O'Neill shakes hands with DUP leader Arlene Foster. Picture from Darran Marshall, BBC

THE Stormont talks didn't so much collapse on Sunday as fizzle out.

It never had the feel of a coherent, structured process with a clear destination, so few were surprised that it failed to conclude with agreement and the restoration of devolution.

Where the blame lies depends on who you talk to.

Sinn Féin points the finger at the British government and the DUP for failing to honour previous agreements, though republicans latterly introduced Brexit concerns and equal marriage into the mix.

The DUP blames Sinn Féin's tunnel vision and unwillingness to compromise, while Secretary of State James Brokenshire provided more platitudes, which although designed to convey impartiality more often come across as indifference.

Some observers have suggested that the problem may lie with the two key protagonists – Arlene Foster and Gerry Adams – who have no history of working together and therefore lack the necessary rapport and mutual respect to overcome their differences.

When you consider the two personalities, it could be argued it's amazing that the negotiations lasted as long as they did.

Yet despite Michelle O'Neill's assertion on Sunday that the talks had run their course, this process hasn't fully concluded.

It does, however, require fresh impetus and much greater momentum.

There appears to be a general consensus that James Brokenshire is ill-suited to the task of chairing the negotiations but finding a non-partisan figure who can command the respect of all sides is no easy task when the clock is ticking.

Questions also remain around Sinn Féin's sincerity in wanting a deal. Some suspect that republicans, or more specifically Gerry Adams, would be happy if the institutions were mothballed.

Tomorrow's triggering of Article 50 signals the beginning of a period of upheaval across these islands, which many believe can only benefit Sinn Féin.

Shouting from the sidelines would certainly seem more preferable than having to forge a joint executive strategy with the DUP, whose approach to Brexit was arguably encapsulated with Nelson McCausland's recent 'leave and damn the consequences' comment.

Sinn Féin insists its desire for a deal is genuine – it's just that the DUP is failing to grasp the true concept of power sharing.

It's likely we'll now have a couple of days' cooling off period before efforts to restart the negotiations begin.

However, if the same lacklustre approach is employed then the prospects of another snap election surely increase.

Where such an exercise would leave us is anybody's guess but it's unlikely that election fatigue alone would be enough to force compromise.

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