The prospect of Martin McGuinness resigning as Deputy First Minister has now been placed centre stage in the Stormont political crisis.
What other reading or interpretation is there of comments made by Gerry Adams to a packed republican audience in west Belfast on Saturday?
Sinn Fein had offered First Minister Arlene Foster the soft exit option of voluntarily stepping aside for a period of weeks to facilitate an investigation into the RHI scheme and to allow for a preliminary report.
The First Minister and DUP leader said “no” and, on Saturday, Adams issued what sounded like the final demand.
“If the First Minister does not take the actions that society desires and deserves and which a sustainable process of change requires, then Sinn Fein will bring this ongoing and totally unacceptable state of affairs to an end.”
Bringing that standoff to an end means the hard exit choice – the McGuinness resignation that will catapult everything into the territory of an election and negotiations the order of which would have to be decided.
Republicans, and every other party, will know that an election on its own will change nothing.
They will be returned to this starting point – the RHI fallout and the gridlock in which Sinn Fein and the DUP are stuck.
But this is only part of the story. In a wider frame we are watching a very public breakdown.
Read some of the other lines in the Adams speech. “The deliberate flouting of any notion of partnership government by the DUP, and recent remarks in particular by the First Minister about the Executive Office, have caused huge difficulties…Arlene Foster is not a Prime Minister.”
Within these comments, and after a decade of the DUP and Sinn Fein as the lead parties in the Executive, we find the issue at the heart of this crisis.
What republicans envisaged in the political talks and agreements of 1998 has not materialised.
“RHI is a tipping point – the final straw that has broken the camel’s back in terms of trying to build a relationship with the DUP,” one republican commented.
So, the talk now is of the need for a “New Agreement” with all of the unresolved issues on the table – among them legacy.
At the time of writing, there is no sense of a deal behind the scenes – certainly not yet as we approach the 59th minute of another eleventh hour.
Rather there is talk of uncharted waters. Yes, there have been other political crises and a way through was found.
No one has that map in the here and now.
How do Adams and Foster step back from their very public positions? Given Saturday’s speech, how is the McGuinness card not played? If it is going to be played, when is it played? And how does all of this fit with what is scheduled to happen when the Assembly resumes on January 16?
These are questions without answers. There is nothing definitive yet, but all of this is in the thinking mix.
Among republicans, there is talk of “growing unease” – that things “could happen very quickly”.
What is there on the other side of such a falling out?
Is a “New Agreement” really possible? How long would it take? Would it be any more sound than the many other agreements?
A year after the so-called Fresh Start, things have stalled – gridlocked – and something more than jump leads will be needed to get politics moving again.
We are not watching a sham fight.
This is politics in the trenches – stuck in the mud, or the ‘ordure’ as my colleague Eamonn Mallie prefers to call it.
Is there a rescue plan? Not yet, and not much time to find one.
This piece does not really grasp that any New Agreement will have to be fundamentally and Constitutionally different from all that has gone before. Base-line Equality will have consequences for a total Cultural change. This time that will have to be embraced by the likes of BBC which was previously excluded from the 1998 Equality Act allowing it to manipulate language & grammar for polluted political reasons.
The Orange Order and others will lose their undeserved and much abused elevated positions.
The 2011 Census showed that 60% of the population here considered themselves to be Irish or N.Irish. These figures have never been reflected via MSM nor Government. The June Referendum indicated 56% were against Brexit. This large group of between 56% and 60% need a new way opened to them by Officialdom for Cultural progress as a new identity based on being n/Northern Irish.
Here is the future and any new talks must not mistake this for either betrayal or a revolution.
This is just the open-minded evolution of the pragmatists.