“I would hope that’s not what they’re saying.”

If you saw the Politics Show today you may have noted NI First Minister Peter Robinson’s studied look of incredulity during the exchange transcribed here. The DUP leader having dismissed NI Secretary of State Shaun Woodward’s “devolve justice, get investment” argument – “God bless Shaun, but I’ve seen him with better arguments at his disposal in the past.” – Jim Fitzpatrick followed up by linking the devolution of policing and justice powers with continued stability – “But they have raised stability, and for Sinn Féin this issue is the key one to maintaining their involvement in devolution. So if there is no devolution, the investment may go.”

[Peter Robinson] “Are you saying to me that Sinn Féin are saying that if they don’t get their way on some political issue that they’re going to lift their ball and go home? I would hope that’s not what they’re saying.”

[Jim Fitzpatrick] “But you must be aware that that is what they’re saying? Certainly that is [unintelligible]”

[Peter Robinson] “I think that they need to come clear with the public if that is what they are saying. I’m here for the long haul. I’m determined to make devolution work. I believe devolution is in the interests of the people of Northern Ireland. I’ll not be walking away. I’m determined that we work through all of the problems we face. The devolution of policing and justice being one of the issues that has to be resolved.

“But I have to say that there will be a lot of people who will have listened to what you have said and will be saying to themselves, well, if Sinn Féin is saying that they will use devolution on the basis of being prepared to allow it to fail if they don’t get their way, they wouldn’t have much confidence in the future.”

For Sinn Féin stability is just a bargaining chip to be used, sotto voce, in an increasingly desperate attempt to bolster the party leadership’s perceived credibility.

Adds Related BBC report.