John Manley: Key players keep low profile amid heightened concern

Concern about the RHI hasn't abated over the festive period
Analysis by John Manley

IT could be argued that politics has been in a state of stasis for much of the past fortnight.

Since the assembly's emergency sitting on December 19 we effectively had a stand-off between the DUP and Sinn Féin.

While it's likely there was some form of back channel discussions between the two parties, the public comment over the festive period were mostly limited to republicans' recrimination over Paul Givan's scrapping of the Líofa's Gaeltacht bursaries.

The DUP has been distinctly low key, choosing to avoid the media while the heat is on its leader.

But although the political process has been on hold and its main players have enjoyed some respite from RHI controversy, concern about the botched scheme has only heightened rather than abated.

The drip feed of information has been beyond the control of the executive parties and therefore they can no longer dictate the direction or pace of the narrative.

Sinn Féin appears to have become aware of the simmering anger and sought to ratchet things up with a statement on Monday from national chairman Declan Kearney.

However, the party shot itself in the foot when his call for a public inquiry was subsequently withdrawn and blamed on a typo.

The focus was instead on Sinn Féin flip-flopping rather than the DUP's increased lack of credibility.

We can rest assured that republicans will think long and hard about their next move before they decide to go public.

In the meantime, it seems Arlene Foster and executive ally Claire Sugden will continue to keep their heads so low that they could almost be hidden below ground.

Where their next appearance will be is anybody's guess but it seems unlikely we'll have to wait until Monday, January 16 when the assembly sits again.

Or is it possible this prolonged silence is a prelude to a resignation?


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