Paging George Mitchell... Paging George Mitchell...

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David Trimble’s Nobel Peace Prize may have been a little premature. Northern Ireland’s political leaders went back to the drawing board Friday, with the decision to keep talking being about the only thing they’re able to agree on. Trimble and his Ulster Unionist Party brought last year’s peace agreement crashing to a standstill Thursday by refusing to take their seats in the new Northern Ireland assembly, insisting they would boycott until the IRA begins to disarm. Having failed to navigate a way through the impasse, Britain picked up the phone overnight and summoned former U.S. senator George Mitchell to reprise the crucial mediating role he played in last year’s agreement. "They’re hoping he’ll pull something out of a hat," says TIME London correspondent Helen Gibson. "While everyone is talking about picking up the pieces, there’s no indication that any of the parties plan to change their approach."

The parties now have until October to review their positions, but although the peace plan has broken down, it’s unlikely that war will resume. The loyalist marching season — always a flash point for communal violence — is over, and the fact of continued talks will likely restrain the major paramilitary organizations from breaching their cease-fire commitments. Low-key talks are to continue throughout the summer, and Britain still hopes to persuade the paramilitary groups to stick to the plan to negotiate a timetable for decommissioning weapons with Canadian mediator General John de Chastelain. Last Easter, Mitchell appeared to achieve a miracle by brokering an historic agreement between parties so mistrustful of each other they insisted on sitting in separate rooms. This time he may want to lock them up in the same room and take away their cell phones.