It is essential that Sinn Fein’s disgraceful, deliberately destabilising conduct is not rewarded today by either unionists or the British government.
The republican party said last evening: “This talks process has run its course. Sinn Féin will not be supporting nominations for Speaker or the Executive tomorrow.”
Perhaps this is a bluff, in a bid to scare James Brokenshire and the DUP and thus to maximise last-minute concessions and a resumption of Stormont.
But it would be madness if a Conservative government with an overall majority and the largest political party in Northern Ireland were to cave in to a party that has a history of such vandalism.
The DUP cannot escape some of the blame for the grim situation in which the country now finds itself – the RHI scandal was appalling and a serious failure of tone antagonised nationalists. Republicans are adept at turning such a tone into alleged evidence of mis-treatment of Catholics. They must not be given such openings, which they always seize.
But this election was not about RHI, the problems with which Sinn Fein was aware for a long time.
It saw an opportunity for electoral advance and having now secured that advance is supremely confident.
It might well be calculating that a fresh election will further bolster its fortunes, by blaming stalemate on unionist bigotry while also benefiting from nationalist goodwill towards the legacy of Martin McGuinness.
We are already beginning to get a sense of how much easier it was to deal with Mr McGuinness than Gerry Adams. No-one who follows events closely seriously thinks that Michelle O’Neill is calling the shots.
But while a return to direct rule will lead to howls of discrimination, it would be far preferable to hurried, last minute concessions to Sinn Fein’s existing list of demands. That will only lead to fresh demands and a fresh crisis in a year or two.