Whatever the outcome, the newly imposed deadline has certainly put the cat amongst the pigeons. Mark Durkan is not happy, accusing Trimble of wearing a sandwich board for Jeffrey Donaldson. Martin McGuinness was also quick to put his own spin on the news:
“What we are witnessing now is a full-frontal assault on the Agreement by the UUP and the DUP, and it is about denying equality to the people we represent. It is about totally destroying power sharing and the institutions established under the terms of the Agreement.”
The DUP’s reaction was to call for elections now. Which may have given rise to the theme of Malachi O’Doherty’s column, which speculates that the real aim of the move is not so much to sink the Agreement as such, but to steal the initiative from the DUP.
“The DUP is the party under direct challenge now and they have to decide their next move. If they wait until David Trimble crashes the Executive in January, they will risk appearing to be following his agenda. People will ask if, similarly, the DUP would follow the Ulster Unionists back into the Executive after the election. That will make David Trimble look like that man who makes decisions for the whole unionist bloc.”
And Sinn Fein, he suggests:
“The IRA is now firmly lashed to the political project of Sinn Fein and, if concessions are necessary, they will be delivered. Republicans will calculate that the unionists might be easier to coax after the election than before it and that there is little point in jumping to their demands in time for the January deadline.
And of the SDLP:
“Its entire project is in jeopardy. It has committed itself to inclusive politics while it is still unclear that full inclusiveness is really attainable. There are some unionists who imagine that the SDLP can share power with them and exclude Sinn Fein. But they can’t.”
And the final outcome:
“A good day’s work? It will seem like it in retrospect, if it forces the IRA out of existence, but who believes that is attainable?”
Update: You can read the text of the UUP motion here.