WHEN a year ago Michelle O'Neill was appointed to the role of Sinn Féin northern leader, the focus was largely on her potential rather than her record.
The Mid Ulster MLA had previously held two executive portfolios but her time overseeing Stormont's agriculture department was typically unremarkable, while her eight-month stint as health minister was too short for any serious assessment of her capabilities.
Ahead of Ms O'Neill's elevation it had been expected that Conor Murphy would succeed Martin McGuinness as leader of Sinn Féin at Stormont.
In the end, however, the Co Tyrone woman was selected in a non-transparent process and in common with president-elect Mary Lou McDonald, her appointment represented a break with the past.
At 40, she was too young to have had any direct involvement in the conflict and represented a new generation of republicans dedicated to achieving a united Ireland through solely democratic means.
Her gender also reflected Sinn Féin's desire to cast itself as a progressive party.
While it would perhaps be unfair to expect Martin McGuinness's successor to emulate his charisma and affability, Ms O'Neill has yet to demonstrate the presence that helped ingratiate the former deputy first minister with his erstwhile enemies.
Her handshake with Arlene Foster at Mr McGuinness's funeral last March hinted at stateswoman-like qualities but the subsequent months suggested it was a one-off.
While her predecessor put outreach and reconciliation to the fore – often for it to be spurned – Ms O'Neill so far seems less inclined towards public rapprochement with unionists.
Her decision to address an event in April commemorating the IRA's 'Loughgall Martyrs' drew predictable criticism. Those less exercised saw it as deliberate tactic to ensure the Co Tyrone republican base was kept on board.
Appearances at such events have since been rare, though the Mid Ulster MLA is unlikely to rule out attending similar commemorations in the future.
While we can expect unionists not to be especially enamoured by Ms O'Neill, some northern nationalists also remain unconvinced of her suitability as figurehead for their community. Often her media appearances appear scripted and lacking in spontaneity.
How much she can be criticised over the handling of the recent Barry McElduff Kingsmill controversy is debatable but as the party's northern leader, she must be accountable to a some degree.
Nevertheless, the Sinn Féin deputy leader-in-waiting last year oversaw her party's two best electoral performances north of the border, bringing the party within 1,200 votes of the DUP in the Stormont election and weeks later unseating two SDLP MPs and leaving its nationalist rival with no representation at Westminster.
A mothballed Stormont clearly hasn't helped Ms O'Neill demonstrate her mettle and all the signals suggest she may have to wait some time before stepping into the deputy first minister's office.
It's ultimately a dim reflection on northern politics that one year on from her anointment we're still talking about Michelle O'Neill's potential rather than her record.