Alliance’s surprise ( to me) pullout from the P&J ministry complicates what seemed to be a straighforward if stubborn impasse between two sides. Whether this buys time for a solution or wastes it will I suppose become clear quite quickly. At this distance though, it seems a rather priggish move and a lost opportunity for David Ford to have refused nomination as the minister. His half-nomination had been the single accommodating exchange between the DUP and Sinn Fein on the subject. Better for him I should have thought, to have seized the opportunity and fought his corner, helping to shape the implementation of a deal. If he found he was hogtied, he could then have resigned from quite a strong position. Perhaps what passes in NI politics for a deep game here is being played out that Im too simple minded to appreciate. Does Ford privately think the big parties might yet turn back to him on bended knee once theyve played pass the parcel and nobody else can take the job? Leaving Ford aside, Margaret Ritchies sole nomination presents the UUs with a marvellous opportunity for a cross community gesture they ll probably avoid, preferring to reach deadlock under their own steam. By supporting their nationalist rival, Sinn Fein take an obvious trick in the game. Alliance has presented the Assembly with a fresh reason for delay which diverts some blame from the DUP. But whether this opens up the game is open to doubt. Unfortunately, the governments will have to chip in and deal a new hand.
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