We have been down this road before and seem to remember one of these deadlines rather recently, last November in fact.
It passed, and what passes for homegrown political life in Northern Ireland, though battered, remained alive, though perhaps on life support.
This time, however, the secretary of state was at pains to pronounce the March 26 deadline for a return to power sharing at Stormont as being well and truly the line beyond which all North politics above local council level will be dead, or at least in cold storage until freed up, perhaps by global warming.
We are inclined to take this deadline more seriously than the last one if for no other reason than the fact that, as Hain pointed out, it is enshrined in statue.
We assume the North’s political parties, not least Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionists, are taking this deadline seriously too.
This would be a good thing because the last thing that the exhausted voters of Northern Ireland deserve is another train wreck on the way to something resembling a working and workable government that they themselves have chosen.