It is appropriate that Ian Paisley is spending his last day as First Minister cuddling up to fellow UK regional nationalist, Alex Salmond. His Scottish counterpart is rather more circumspect than Paisley in public, but together perhaps privately they can reflect on the evils of the ‘Brits’. Immediate concerns, however, are focussed on the handover of the First Minister’s position from Paisley to his successor, Peter Robinson, and the potential for Provisional Sinn Féin to derail the process by declining to re-nominate Martin McGuinness for the Deputy First Minister’s post, a position which is tied to that of the First Minister.
With his customary flair for understatement Paisley has deemed any potential failure to nominate, “an evil thing”, although you might be forgiven for thinking that it would not constitute the Provisionals’ most evil action throughout the years. Nevertheless the threat is being taken seriously, to the extent that Gordon Brown invited both SF president Gerry Adams and Peter Robinson to Downing Street yesterday, in an attempt to reach an accommodation.
On Everything Ulster and Slugger, Michael has been speculating as to PSF’s motivations for this potential move. My suspicion is that it constitutes something of a huff in an attempt to gain leverage on issues such as devolution of policing and justice and an Irish Language act. The danger is that, having invoked this threat in order to gain leverage, the Shinners may not wish to exhibit weakness and be seen to back down without firm commitments on the issues which they have raised.
Should neither side be prepared yield, a fresh election would be likely this year. That is a prospect which is not appealing either to the DUPes or the Shinners.