Sam McBride: Already, the Stormont talks would seem forlorn

Stormont has not functioned since January.
Stormont has not functioned since January.

Sammy Wilson is often the first person to say publicly what many people within the DUP are thinking privately.

His call for immediate direct rule appears to reflect in blunt terms the implications of what Arlene Foster said last month – that she had “regretfully...come to the conclusion that Sinn Féin aren’t interested in devolution”.

If the talks are pointless, then the only question is whether to move to direct rule immediately or to go there after another election.

More significant than Mr Wilson’s call for immediate direct rule is the analysis which lies behind it – the DUP belief that Sinn Fein has no intention of going back into Stormont unless all of its demands are met, from the removal of Arlene Foster as first minister to a Bill of Rights to gay marriage, an Irish language act and more.

In political terms, there is no way that the DUP could concede everything on the Sinn Fein list without fracturing.

Likewise, Sinn Fein’s resounding mandate for a tougher stance with the DUP meant that it needed to get some concrete victories out of this talks process. The DUP had been operating on the basis that the negotiations were about securing some of the republican demands but now seems to believe that Sinn Fein will not return without all of them.

The fact that Mr Wilson did not call for an election gives his comments particular weight. If the DUP, the party which almost certainly stands to gain most from an election at this point, believes that such a move would be pointless, then the talks really do seem forlorn.