The prospects of a Stormont deal seem now to be as bleak as at any time this year.
Some commentators seem to think that it is merely a matter of getting the Sinn Fein and DUP conferences out of the way and all will be well.
Perhaps they are right. But if so, then the near agreement between the parties has been well disguised.
Sinn Fein has behaved disgracefully since January, with its shopping lists of demands.
Now, in the latest in a long succession of unhelpful interventions from Dublin, Leo Varadkar has called for joint authority in the event of a return to direct rule, albeit he has not used those terms. Mr Varadkar said he would want the British Irish Inter-Governmental Conference to plot a way forward.
This would be a huge reward for Sinn Fein’s destabilising tactics and would lead again and again to them holding Northern Ireland to blackmail.
Not only must there no such move in the increasingly likely event that direct rule has to be implemented, there must not even be a hint of an increased say for Dublin.
Meanwhile, the American diplomat Richard Haass has made an unhelpful intervention, blaming the crisis on poor leadership, Brexit and a failure to deal with legacy.
Mr Haass, as someone who is not involved overseeing talks here, as he once was, can hold whatever view he wants on Brexit. But it is telling to see what he actually believes about it. Most people in the transatlantic elite have the same dismissive view on the UK vote to quit the European Union.
But can you imagine lecturing American politicians that they were wrong if they felt that some part of United States sovereignty had to be reclaimed? Or that they should support legacy structures that exhaustively investigate US state forces while making barely any progress against the terrorists they were trying to stop?
Mr Haass’s comments are a reminder that we need no outside ‘independent chair’ of any coming talks.