John Manley: It all looks serious but don't forget it's Stormont panto season

Panto time in Belfast. Photo by Simon Graham/Harrison Photography

IT was a day of drama and recrimination that ended with an outcome few had anticipated.

At the outset it seemed like Sinn Féin's planned amendment to a no confidence motion in Arlene Foster had enabled the party to outmanoeuvre both the SDLP and DUP.

Martin McGuinness's "friendly advice" to the First Minister to step aside had the appearance of an offer she couldn't refuse.

But refuse she did and while what followed was a rather embarrassing address to her own benches and a meek Claire Sugden in an otherwise empty chamber, her obstinacy won out.

Notably, however, while Mrs Foster's much-anticipated statement on the RHI debacle was quite comprehensive, it neglected to mention the measures she hopes will be taken to recover some of the projected £400m overspend.

Rather than an oversight on the first minister's part, it seems the absence of a plan for curbing costs was deliberate, as to do so would have antagonised Sinn Féin.

Ian Knox's interpretation of yesterday's events at Stormont:

Martin McGuinness is adamant that his party must be involved in the process, having warned of "grave consequences" if the DUP acts unilaterally.

To the uninitiated it may appear that the DUP-Sinn Féin non-aggression pact has been torn up, but while relations between the two parties are clearly strained, lines of communication remain open.

It's likely the political row will be put on ice over the Christmas period and while more revelations around the RHI scandal are expected, they are unlikely to further destabilise relations between the executive's partners in the immediate future.

Further contact over the festive break may yet see an outcome that suits both parties.

While ostensibly the consequences of yesterday's proceedings were serious, it's worth remembering that Stormont likes nothing more than a pantomime at Christmas.

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