As the prospects of a resumption of Stormont all but vanished on Thursday night, a number of other stories were breaking or about to break that cast light on what is happening within republicanism.
Gerry Adams TD, the Sinn Fein president, was urging Dublin to veto further EU-Brexit talks because not enough progress has been made to date. It was an illustration that the Republic will be able to make the UK’s departure difficult, if it is so minded, which it might well be – particularly if SF enter government south of the border.
Meanwhile, Mr Adams was dismissing the prospect of bringing justice against the IRA murderers of the Co Louth farmer Tom Oliver, saying it would be “counterproductive” to imprison them – which happens to be the fate facing elderly British soldiers, who are being investigated for killings which were almost never pre-meditated, as was that of Mr Oliver.
Then yesterday the PSNI revealed that hardline republicans – so-called dissidents, but following in the footsteps of the Provos – have developed a crude but effective new bomb.
Not one of these three developments is surprising, and nor is it surprising that Sinn Fein instantly rejected Arlene Foster’s overture on Thursday of reviving Stormont. The party wants Northern Ireland to fail and is behaving accordingly.
But while the developments are not surprising, they pose a major headache. Direct rule seems all but inevitable now. Indeed it would look suspicious if it is not introduced.
As Lord Empey has said to the News Letter, London could rush through reforms at Westminster to placate Sinn Fein – the most damaging of which will be a standalone Irish language act, about which SF have manufactured a crisis.
The DUP did well to secure over £1 billion for Northern Ireland in return for propping up Theresa May’s government. The party will antagonise the Tories if it has long lists of red lines in the mould of Sinn Fein. But blocking any reward for Sinn Fein’s disgraceful conduct is one of the things on which there can be no compromise.