Theresa Villiers is a semi-detached secretary of state. She needs to focus up, or go.

Mick’s post brings out the striking  ontrast between this debate in the Dail and how Westminster is currently dealing with Northern Ireland.  There is a powerful irony that Dublin is far more interested in our affairs than London, even though London as the paymasters has the overwhelming responsibility.

In NI questions on the same day,Theresa Villiers limited herself to a fatalistic statement of the position  on deadlock. Although she has met the parties there have been no serious attempts at persuasion or coaxing, if only to show that London is making the effort.Her line has generally coincided with the DUP’s.

Compared with Scotland or even Wales, attention to NI has been virtually non-existent. Now you might argue that this is shrewd tactics, declining to raise the stakes and  staring out Sinn Fein in an attempt to call their bluff. But I doubt it. Sinn Fein may have the stamina to hold out until the elections north and south and allow the drawing on account on  the following year’s block grant to build up further.

 It remain to be seen  whether the UK government will let them. The signs are that they won’t, but there is an air of dream like unreality about  the whole business   Granted that London has many more  fish to fry than Dublin, it’s still a great pity that the UK government have been so passive and non-interventionist for so long. One flurry of a hot- house negotiation in Stormont House last Christmas  was clearly not enough. We have been living with that failure for too long. While  she can reasonably claim that the stand off is hardly her fault, she remains the representative of the  government that is ultimately responsible.  Ms Villiers seems to have no aptitude for the sort of person to person contacts that are essential for the job. I can’t imagine  very different predecessors from Paddy Mayhew to Mo Mowlan, John Reid and Peter Hain behavingly so passively.

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