Just four months ago Foster and McGuinness wrote in this paper that politics was changing for the better

Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness pictured in November last year. In this month the two penned a joint platform piece espousing the work of the Executive
Gareth McKeown

Just four months ago the leaders of the north's two biggest political parties painted a rosy picture of relations between one another.

In the platform piece published in the Irish News on November 21 last year and written by First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness they said politics here was changing "for the better".

"Our two parties - along with Claire Sugden as Justice Minister – are now in an Executive facing in the same direction," the joint ministerial office declared.

The statement also acknowledged that while the two parties "come from very different places and have very different ideologies" this "should not and will not stop us working together on day-to-day bread and butter issues".

The President of the Republic of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos with Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness back in November last year. Picture by Hugh Russell

Crucially the article also included a pledge to make devolution work on a long-term basis.

"We firmly believe that a devolved Executive, with ministers working together effectively and collectively, is in the public interest. Imagine if we had followed the example of others and decided the challenges of government were just too daunting. That would have opened the door to years of direct rule - Conservative ministers ruling over us without a mandate. Rest assured this Executive is not going to abandon you to that. We are in this for the long haul," they said.

Less than two months on from this public display of unity Martin McGuinness tendered his resignation from office, removing Arlene Foster from her ministerial role in the process. Just over four months from the publication our two leading political parties have been unable to reach agreement following a fresh Assembly election.

Four months is a long time in Northern Ireland politics.

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