With little of substance separating SF and the DUP, a war over manners stands proxy for NI politics…

Interesting editorial in the Irish Times musing on the subject of Sinn Fein’s true intentions re the restart of institutions, and concluding that:

Although the DUP is showing signs of a willingness to engage, the noises coming from Sinn Féin are less positive and there are doubts about the party’s real intentions. One widely held view is that it has given up on wanting to exercise power in the North on the basis that it is damaging its strategy of building support in the Republic. The party has certainly been stung by accusations from its opponents in the Dáil that it is willing to implement policies in the North that it vehemently opposes south of the border.

One way of putting an end to such taunts would be to avoid going back to power sharing. That would trigger direct rule from Westminster and would allow the party to adopt a populist anti-government strategy on both sides of the border. The other side of the coin, though, is that if it shows itself incapable of exercising power in Northern Ireland, Sinn Féin’s credibility as a potential party of government in the Republic will suffer.

The former is where the instinct of its interminably secure leadership group lies. Contact with government responsibility has done it no direct harm in Northern Ireland (particularly when compared directly with the DUP), but nor has it been particularly able to prosper by it.

The collapse was precipitated by a base unhappy with its record in government. Perhaps that’s been satiated by the spilling of unionist blood at the polls. But as the Times editorial points out, there’s little to be negotiated that have “not already been covered in the Stormont House and Fresh Start agreements”.

But as the Times editorial points out, there’s little left to be negotiated which has “not already been covered in the Stormont House and Fresh Start agreements”.

Perhaps this explains why the controversies currently blowing through the body politic centre on politically inconsequential matters such as the choice of words between the two women most likely to head the local institutions, should they restart in the next few months?

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