Northern Ireland news

Analysis: All eyes on the DUP as talks resume

The next few days could prove career defining for Arlene Foster. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire

WE may hope that there's a willingness to compromise quickly when the talks aimed at restoring devolution reconvene on Thursday.

You get the distinct impression that the two governments, and the British government in particular, aren't in the mood to hang around.

The softly softly approach towards the DUP that prevailed during the lifetime of the confidence and supply deal with the Tories has disappeared and there's little patience on display from Secretary of State Julian Smith.

The issues in need of resolution are well known. Some form of an Irish language act is required and has support from a majority of Stormont's parties. Whether the DUP is willing or capable of selling an Irish language act to its own rank and file is a moot point.

There have been hints in recent months but nothing yet that can be interpreted as a clear indication that the party is preparing itself for a climb down. But the backdraft from the Westminster election has blown like a chilled wind through DUP headquarters, a warning to the party that blocking a return to devolution reflects badly at the polls.

Reform of the petition of concern is more nuanced and not necessarily something that greatly concerns grass-roots unionists.

However, the loss of unionism's majority in the assembly elevates the veto mechanism to much greater importance than in previous mandates, when it is widely acknowledged the petition of concern was abused and applied in dubious circumstances. Like with so many past agreements, this element of the deal will likely be kicked down the road.

For Arlene Foster this is a big moment and arguably a career defining one, where she must either opt to move forward or face an election that could potentially spell the end of her leadership.

Given where the negotiations reached before Christmas there will be a degree of optimism when the parties get round the table again on Thursday. They have little over ten days to strike a deal and all eyes will be on the DUP.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Northern Ireland news