“Nothing lasts for ever, do you play it safe or do you try to do something…”

When you read Martin McGuinness’ interview in yesterday’s Guardian, it’s worth watching a pre Tory David Trimble’s straight talk interview with Andrew Neil… Both men display a strong sense of the future and an understanding of the need to move on to new territory (without deserting principle), not necessarily shared by their original political hinterlands…Much of the McGuinness interview is a rehashing of old stuff, already in public domain, accompanied by the customary spin… However in one respect, Mr McGuinness’ analysis hits one nail on the head:

Robinson’s speech, he says, “effectively called for the binning of both the Good Friday and the St Andrews agreements – certainly the cross-community voting arrangements.

But McGuinness is here gilding a very popular but largely misleading nationalist lily when he claims Robinson is “harking back to an age when a unionist block could dictate the pace at parliament here, and in government”. What Robs in the first place is a loosening of the ties his own party (with the agreement of Sinn Fein but no one else at St Andrews) to ensure Ministers did not act outside the authority of the Executive in quite the way they they themselves had done during David Trimble’s tenancy as First Minister.

That said, the current First Minister was on stronger ground suggesting that the sheer indolence of the DUP/Sinn Féin led alliance is of itself a powerful critique of of a system that crams people together who could never agree on anything that was fundamentally political. Robinson’s position medium term position is one the DUP has articulated in detail as prefereable to mandatory coalition since January 2004.

That’s not to deny there are not serious internal pressures within the DUP, not least given Jim Allister’s proven capacity to punch way above its weight… Yet, even Alliser (who got pretty close to the SAA negotiations before jumping ship) accepts that it is right to okay to have Sinn Fein in government, just that he doesn’t want to be forced to join them or condone any unionist who does so.

So it is fair enough in this context to ask as Eamonn has whether “OFMdFM is history”?

The answer from both sides is, I suspect, likely to be something akin to Augustine’s famous prayer: “Lord make me pure, but not yet”. The problem for both, but more acutely for Sinn Fein is that, as Trimble points out, the key to the Peace Process™ has always been the ‘consent principle’… It was Unionism’s ace blocking card (ie nothing could be given that was not freely given…) in the negotiations of 95-98…

As, perhaps as an unintended consequence, it also proved to be a key dynamic to the IRA holding out on decommissioning of its weapons for nearly eight years after the Belfast Agreement… And it is the key to the DUP’s capacity to hold out almost interminably on the devolution of Policing and Justice (the really reason for Sinn Fein’s – hugely under reported – civil action against anything happening inside the Executive)… Only now it is ‘nationalism’ rather than ‘unionism’ that’s in the ha’penny place…

Despite all the spin this week, this one will walk, walk and walk… At least so long as Sinn Fein continue to make David Trimble’s mistake of making it too much of an issue for their opponents for their own good… Although that’s a part of strategy I suspect lies in the realm of the party’s ex-officio internal discipline committee, something the deputy First Minister has little to do with…

That said, Peter Robinson might also like to reflect on the current drift which Sinn Fein finds itself in courtesy of its own past belligerence; and conclude that loss of political momentum can be every bit as damaging as the idea that that you’ve sold out on some crucial (if arcane) point of principle…

This hiatus that’s not a hiatus is likely to be a game of two halves at least…

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty