I was no better a prophet than Mick, though Im glad Peter bowed to the inevitable and asked for standards inquiries himself, rather than wait for a complaint to be made against him. So the DUP and Sinn Fein have looked into the abyss and stepped back from the brink. It feels like a remarkable turnround.The doomsday atmosphere seems to have lightened already. Had the party sacked Peter as ruthlessly as they dumped Iris, they would have looked panicky fools dancing to Jim Allisters tune. Gregory turned round and suddenly found no one was willing to follow him over the cliff.. Equally the Sinn Fein bullet has not been fired yet. It might have even come as a relief to them that they didnt need to respond to the nomination of a new DUP FM. A meanly opportunist Sinn Fein would have looked as petty as a panicky DUP. So well done guys, you didnt f*** it up altogether! Lets be honest, the whole of the media looked a bit panicky too, though mainly taking their cue from the politicians, not the other way round as the politicians love to claim. The J&P deadlock of course remains but judging from Gerry Kellys interview after Arlene Fosters statement, they dont know how to respond yet. Peter keeping the J&P and the main political brief is a bold even defiant stroke. It emphasises party unity and makes no new waves. But whats the course to steer? The most important thing today was said by Peter at the end of his statement standing aside ( below the fold)..
“Throughout this period I will continue to work on the outstanding issues relating to policing and justice and some other matters. This allows a particularly concentrated focus on these discussions and we will work to try to build on the agreements we have already reached so that a successful resolution can be reached.
This is the year to deliver at Stormont for all the people of Northern Ireland.
If the parties seize their chance so bizarrely presented by the Robinson crisis, they could capitalise on the easing of tension and make new weather to complete the devolution package by the end of the year. There are several big leaps across wide chasms ahead. The process entails a flexible timetable, meaning after the Westminster election at the earliest. The questions tumble in would that be enough for Sinn Feins very soon? And can a wounded Peter, though up for the fight, deliver? Over to you, British and Irish governments, to lay it on thick.
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