When you’re explaining, you’re losing – and Sinn Fein has been doing a lot of explaining since the farce, the fiasco and the fallout at Stormont on Monday.
It had created a mood and an expectation before then.
Martin McGuinness had a phone conversation with Arlene Foster – telling the First Minister that the credibility of the political institutions was being undermined “by the serious and ongoing allegations surrounding the design, operation, abuse and ending of the Renewable Heating Incentive scheme”.
He said she should “stand aside from the role of First Minister” while there was an investigation, later explaining that this was “friendly advice” declaring it was what he would do himself in parallel circumstances.
That advice was immediately dismissed. There was a DUP statement: “The First Minister will not be stepping aside, but instead is focused on ensuring the full facts about this issue emerge and proposals are brought forward which can make a significant reduction in the future financial burden the Executive would face. The First Minister does not take her instructions from Sinn Fein but from the electorate.”
There was a speech from Gerry Adams on Saturday, then more statements from Sinn Fein on Sunday warning the DUP of consequences if there was a solo run on this issue. It was made clear and later repeated that a planned statement by Arlene Foster on Monday did not have the authority or approval of the Deputy First Minister.
The Foster statement went ahead, the implications of that captured in a tweet from Ciaran Kearney.
Step away from the pantomime and the shambles of this Stormont day and from all of the fallout from the RHI scheme, and, within that tweet, you arrive at serious questions about what is meant to be the joined-up nature of new politics.
It did not look new on Monday, but old. Alliance leader Naomi Long described “a major challenge to these institutions…to power sharing”.
There is a spotlight on Speaker Robin Newton.
Mike Nesbitt has written to him, that letter including these lines: “I regret to say you have lost the confidence of the Ulster Unionist Party. On that basis, may I respectfully urge you to use the break to reflect on whether you are best placed to lead the Assembly in 2017.”
Since Monday, Sinn Fein has been explaining; explaining why it did not support the SDLP motion of no confidence in the First Minister, toughening up its words, speaking publicly in the media and internally to its membership about a motion it will bring forward in the New Year.
When you’re explaining, you’re losing.
The talk of “grave consequences” suggested much, but changed nothing – certainly not yet.
And this is not the first time. Look at a pattern – the dragging out of the devolution of policing and justice powers, the Maze/Long Kesh row, welfare reform, not being able to get movement on an Irish Language Act or on a process to address the past. Sinn Fein have shown their teeth and then put them away.
Given the build up – the phone call, the speech, the statements – Monday closed with a feeling of false alarm and crying wolf. The DUP did things its way.
Now, there is talk of “wait and see” that the grave consequences have not gone away.
Explaining, explaining – more explaining and now the waiting for the New Year.
To this point, Arlene Foster has given no indication that she is willing to step aside.
So, does Sinn Fein really want to push the nuclear button – a McGuinness resignation that could force an early election?
Or is it a move towards another negotiation – and perhaps a ‘Fresher’ Start?
Let’s see what January brings.
What ever the problems pulling down of the executive without proper evidence of wrong doing is not the answer
When many others will convict without proof of actual wrong doing sinn fein will not, as it would seem that a lot of others were also sleeping at the wheel including the UUP / SDLP who may not have created the problem but they did contribute to it by lack of oversight by the committee of which they where members
investigate first then if it all stacks up then take whatever action required or maybe not as required