When Peter Robinson announced his intention to step aside from the First Minister's role for six weeks yesterday he chose to prolong a crisis of political leadership at Stormont.
Mr Robinson hopes to use the respite to answer allegations raised by a sensational Spotlight investigation into financial arrangements which his wife Iris struck with a 19-year-old businessman.
But his absence will leave the Assembly in limbo at a crucial period. Peter Robinson's increasingly desperate attempts to safeguard his own career could compromise Northern Ireland's political future and damage the electoral prospects of his party.
It has been a traumatic couple of weeks for the DUP leader in the aftermath of Iris's withdrawal from public life. Seamy revelations about her relationship with a teenage entrepreneur have been accompanied by wider concerns over the Robinsons' financial affairs. It has been suggested that Peter was privy to information about his wife's dealings which he was obliged by a ministerial code to divulge to the appropriate authorities.
Although the charge is rather abstract in comparison to concrete allegations against Iris, the East Belfast MLA clearly has a case to answer. However, politics here cannot come to a halt while Peter Robinson clears his name.
Although, developing a point which I raised on 'Three Thousand Versts' yesterday, where there is damage for the 'carve-up' parties, there is a silver lining.
The prevailing orthodoxy that Northern Ireland's stability depends upon the compact between a strong DUP and a strong Sinn Fein deserves to be tested. If the two parties lose ground at the polls it does not represent a fatal blow to the peace process.
It is unthinkable that the DUP will not sustain damage after the Robinson revelations. The period of drift into which we are now entering can only exacerbate the party's sense of crisis. Its leader has condemned it to the type of 'drip, drip' effect which is currently undermining Gordon Brown's Labour leadership in London.
Meanwhile, Stormont must endure another period of uncertainty, thanks to the personal and political difficulties of one man.
The only possible source of comfort is that, by standing aside temporarily, Peter Robinson might actually contribute to a realignment capable - eventually - of delivering stable government to Northern Ireland.