One way or another Martin McGuinness is gone as a significant player on the Northern Ireland stage. There’s speculation as to whether he will appear as a paper candidate in Foyle in the election, but that’s a decision for the party, on another day.
Although, to secure maximum advantage and to discount as much drift as they can it is likely that both Sinn Fein and the DUP will agree on elections as early as possible. Everywhere the airwaves are aflood with key election messages.
Mairtin O Muilleoir on Morning Ireland this morning talking about his party’s (albeit belated) efforts to get a “No Hiding Place inquiry” against Jeffrey Donaldson popping in his line that “Sinn Fein ran away from powersharing” every moment he could.
In all the jollity, it falls to Malachi O’Doherty to ask how far McGuinness’s ill health was a factor:
… is McGuinness to be taken at his word when he says that health is not the issue here? The sceptic will wonder if, faced with the need to stand down, he sought to create the maximum impact and to damage Foster, who has been resisting pressure from Sinn Féin to stand aside.
Sinn Féin, which just a month ago seemed a businesslike partner of the DUP, now accuses the party of arrogance and trying to run Northern Ireland without conceding anything to republicans and other minorities. The DUP had, for instance, used a veto called a petition of concern that enabled them, with a minority share of the vote, to block same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.
From Sinn Féin’s point of view, the stentorian attitude of Foster, refusing to stand aside, and the growing feeling among their own supporters that they have been weak and pushed around, has made it necessary for them to take a tough line.
But there is a high price to be paid for bringing down Stormont and forcing the British to restore direct rule. An obvious one is that the inquiry into the lavishly funded heating scheme will not now take place.
McGuinness may have scuppered the very thing he was demanding.
Two things we know in Northern Ireland politics. One is that the end is never the end, no matter how dramatic the mood music. With all the external grown ups camped out in other Gethsemanes. The resolution may have to come from within.
And in the scrambling competition for that: the prize for the most fitting soundbite of the day goes to Naomi Long for “we need to elect people who are willing to accept responsibility, not just power”.