No reason to think that SF ditching Stormont for a year or until after the southern election will help

I’ll leave it to David and the panel later in the campaign to compare all the PEBs in this campaign. But last night’s from Sinn Fein was interesting for a number of reasons (and not just because they subtitled Michelle O’Neill the whole way through).

It seems to have borrowed tone of the Fianna Fail and Fine Gael PEBs from last year’s general election: in foregrounding ordinary people. The reference to equality with regard to LGB&T rights is in line with the respect line since they walked out and triggered the election.

The multiple references to nurses, of course, may be no more than a reminder that Ms O’Neill is the lately arrived Minister with an (albeit undetailed and uncosted) ten-year plan for renewing the NHS in Northern Ireland. [That’s something she can’t do from Dublin HQ. – Ed]

This (and having seen some of our commenters acquire egg on their faces over whether SF would even call this election, I say this advisedly) might also suggest that this is not a party preparing to ditch power in NI for longer than it can help it.

There is vague talk about legacy issues. The imbalance of what comes over Barra McGrory’s desk, as Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has already admitted, has very little to do with the DPP and more to do with how the police choose to prepare which files to send to him.

Yet despite the protests, it’s real enough and a serious bone of contention which given the opportunity in negotiations the DUP will want to seize upon directly. Brokenshire’s outspoken views on the subject don’t augur well on that matter either.

There is also a cost to leaving the job at a time when constituents will shortly be getting a series of letters firstly charging them for bedroom tax, then notifying them of the covering payment, with a reminder that they are only covered up to 31st March 2020.

That won’t go unnoticed by rival parties. Time is no longer the same friend to Sinn Fein’s ageing leadership it has been in previous rounds.

A long break would free up resources to help jump start the southern project which seems to have plateaued. Sunday’s Red C poll showed no movement outside the margin of error, but 14% in what could be mid-term, is a long way back from the 21-23% range they got in the last Dail.

The friendly wall to wall media coverage they’ve received (usually at the expense of the DUP) in the southern press doesn’t seem to have provided much of a bounce. There’s no reason to think that ditching the Stormont institutions for a year or until the southern election is over will help either.