Adds: In response to a point reasonably made , I have retitled. There! It can be done. Brian Feeney, historian of Sinn Fein, Round Britain Quiz panellist and Irish News columnist, is gloating over the perceived discomfiture of Peter Robinson as he tries to find firm ground in his troubled party. The latest pimple Brian has been picking at is the police reserve issue which actually appears to have been finessed. Peter seems to working his way through the divisive issues one by one. He could do worse. He has just finally written off Eames Bradley as a whole, as being too badly compromised by the recognition payments to proceed with. I hear no chorus of objection from nationalists about that. There is much unfinished business there but better to tackle it piecemeal and certainly afresh. Perhaps parades will come next. On both issues we need a firm last hurrah from the team of Shaun Woodward and Micheal Martin. What Brian chooses to ignore is that no supporters of the agreements gain if Robinson loses his ability to manoeuvre within unionist opinion. Cutting the First Minister some slack is necessary to keep the show on the road. It doesnt require croppies to lie down.Just for a change, Id welcome an open minded treatment from Brian that puts himself into the minds of Robinson and his electorate. Sure, confidence building is a two way process but if Robinson can steer a narrow course between now and next May momentum may pick up. What else is there to work for? In a rare intervention the old man has praised Sinn Feins good faith and warned both sides to work with great care. How interesting that he seems prepared to take the TUV flak. Would it really take the skin off Brian Feeneys nose if J&P were postponed until next summer? He would do better to urge McGuinness and Robinson so start the sequencing for this to happen acceptably rather than facing ultimatums. We need another Massareene moment, but from both sides this time.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London