More substance [less showboating] can take the opposition out of their splendid isolation

Having given the media the slip we’re none the wiser over Sinn Fein’s public inquiry flip-flop. Rumour is that Mairtin jumped when Brokenshire signalled he would call one. If the late switch is embarrassing, it gives him the means to set its terms of reference (and keep Finance out of the glare).

[Spare a thought for poor Declan Kearney, who was the first SF MLA to mention a Public Inquiry, then had it slapped down as a misspeak, then yesterday after drawing a line in the sand on GMU saying it would never happen, had it the line redraw by Mairtin whilst Evening Extra was on air.]

As for the opposition, as I noted before Christmas they’ve been guilty of overreaching. Whatever it looked like at the time, the DUP were never going to throw Arlene under a bus, and now Mairtin, not them, has control over the definitive inquiry into the matter.

In the process, they’ve risked giving SF a licence to consign the whole package into a dark pit for a period of their own choosing.  But there was some signs of intermediate (if not quite senior) hurling standards from the SDLP’s Nichola Mallon last night:

It’s textbook opposition play. Welcome the positive action. Point out that you’d advocated this from the start. Use your opponent’s potent strapline (£85k a day) as the cost of their delay. And the kicker, to highlight probity and avoidance of damage to legitimate businesses on the scheme.

More substance, and less showboating, can, over time, take the opposition out of their splendid isolation from power and towards credibility in an NI that’s slowly turning voters (but more pronounced amongst nationalists these days than unionists) away from our self-indulgent institutions.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty