“that same glorious tradition of self-indulgence”

Whilst someone is telling Brian that Sinn Féin “will in effect pull the plug on powersharing next week” – and news that the party intends to table an emergency motion in the Assembly asking the Northern Ireland First Minister to answer questions about recent allegations suggests they’re in a trouble-making mood – in the Irish News Patrick Murphy provides some useful clarity on Sinn Féin’s latest manufactured “crisis” [further background here].

“With only a few exceptions in Irish history, republicans generally stood apart, and often aloof, from the people for whom they claimed they were fighting. It is a continuation of that same glorious tradition of self-indulgence which jeopardises the future existence of the Stormont assembly. Sinn Féin (SF) is threatening to walk away if a date for the devolution of policing has not been agreed by an ever-extending deadline. There is no popular clamour for Sinn Féin’s stance; no people’s manifestoes from the barricades on devolved policing; no riotous mobs on the streets chanting “Shaun Woodward Out”. Who controls the police is of little relevance to most people. But it is important to Sinn Féin. The party wants local control over policing because the leadership offered that prize (if that is the right word) to the rank and file in return for disbanding the Provisional IRA. So devolved policing is not a policy for the people, it is a policy for the party.”

Promised rather than “offered”, Patrick. Support for the police, and the subsequent disbanding of the Provisional IRA, was a political imperative for the party leadership at the time. But despite agitating being the apparent default fall-back position, beyond a “tough on the DUP” platform for the UK General Election, there’s little benefit to be seen in the suggested SF approach without sweeping reforms to the “indigenous” deal – as today’s Irish Times editorial indicates

Relations within the Executive between Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness have been dysfunctional for a considerable time. Despite, or perhaps because of that, Mr McGuinness and his senior colleagues made space for Mr Robinson when details of his family difficulties became public. Sinn Féin is well aware that the removal of the First Minister would not advance its agenda at this time. And Gerry Adams has his own particular family problems.

Those “particular family problems” already show signs of becoming a wider party political problem for Sinn Féin.