From the loyalist side lines Billy Hutchinson has been watching the DUP-Sinn Fein political fallout.
The row was framed within two speeches in the past week, the first from Declan Kearney and then from Peter Robinson.
It has all the feel of tit-for-tat, even though both parties might argue differently.
As for those watching, they are not sure if they are observing a kind of sham fight or something more serious.
“You would think they weren’t partners in Government,” Hutchinson, a former life sentence prisoner and leader of the Progressive Unionist Party told me.
On the Sunday Politics show today, MP Jeffrey Donaldson said Kearney’s reconciliation speech at Westminster had all the characteristics of outburst – not outreach.
The response of the Sinn Fein national chair was to explain that reconciliation “isn’t about throwing flowers at one another” and that criticism is part of the rough and tumble of politics.
Donaldson said his party had a policy of no first strike, but if attacked would respond.
So, are we to trawl the different speeches of the past weeks and months to find the starting point in this latest row between the two main parties in the Executive?
Or is there the possibility of a calm and grown up conversation such as the one staged under the heading of the John McMichael Memorial Debate a few days ago?
That event brought one-time enemies under the same roof.
It was an event to remember the IRA killing of a loyalist leader, but, in a developing peace process, it found room at the top table for republicans Sean Murray and Danny Morrison.
Was this not a major gesture in reconciliation?
Those who say nothing has changed should look more closely at such events.
They should not be ignored, something a number of mainstream media outlets were guilty of last week.
There is unfinished business in the peace process – parading, the dissident threat and the unanswered questions of the past.
On the latter, is a Truth and Reconciliation Commission the best way to do it?
“Gerry Adams can’t even bring himself to say he was in the IRA,” Jeffrey Donaldson argues.
“What prospect have we of a proper truth process?” he asked.
It all depends on whether people want that process to be about Gerry Adams and the IRA or about all sides in a long conflict.
A few days ago, Declan Kearney made clear that a process that looks back “will have to mean everyone’s role in the past being placed on an even playing field”.
That means all sides, but there is no agreement on such a process or structure.
“There are people out there who want to know what happened,” Billy Hutchinson told this website.
“That can’t be done unless you give people [combatants]a safe way of doing it without persecution or prosecution,” he continued.
He means an answering/information process made possible by amnesty or something that means the same thing, but knows how politically sensitive this issue is.
Hutchinson’s party is not part of the political mainstream but is linked to one of the major players in our wars – the UVF organisation.
So, he is an important voice in this debate.
“We certainly need to deal with the past,” he said – “otherwise the divided society will become more divided.”
The unanswered question is how to deal with it.
Hutchinson has asked for a paper to be prepared on the past and reconciliation – a PUP perspective that will be made public when ready.
“Sinn Fein’s arrogance around reconciliation is driving Unionists mad,” he said, but this is not where his criticism ends.
“My view about the main unionist parties is they don’t have a clue how to deal with the past…I contend they don’t understand republicanism.
“We can deal with them because we know them as well as they know themselves,” he said.
Hutchinson will also understand that to go down this road will mean many awkward questions for loyalists – as difficult as those that will be asked of republicans.
He also knows there is no way of avoiding the past, something another loyalist leader Jackie McDonald clearly understands.
“The peace process won’t be complete until the victims and the perpetrators can sit in the room together and discuss their different experiences of the past,” he said recently, while accepting “how difficult that is going to be”.
The past will only be a republican project and process if others allow it to be, and it is worth remembering something the then Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde said a decade ago.
He argued that a way had to be found to close the book – a way that did so in a dignified manner for victims.
That is the challenge – to think how to do it in a calmer atmosphere and inside a realistic process.
It doesn’t have to be called a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.