Last week the Green Party and the Alliance Party handed Gerry Adams a propaganda victory, and allowed themselves to look like dupes.
The two parties stood side by side with the Sinn Fein president in demand of an Irish language act.
The event was then portrayed, as its organisers must have intended, as five parties backing a standalone act, with the implication that only a hardline fringe would oppose such an act. But two of the parties, People Before Profit and the SDLP, draw votes almost entirely from the nationalist community.
The two centrist parties could have held their own language event, to distance themselves from the impression that an act is a tribal nationalist notion, and specifically to show they have no truck with Sinn Fein’s extreme 2015 proposals for such an act.
After all, republicans have had plenty of time to come up with more reasonable proposals. But Alliance and the Greens instead chose to make things hard for unionists.
It is all the more welcome thus that even those two parties are finally calling out SF for its behaviour in recent months (see link below).
Stephen Farry says that today’s speech from Mr Adams “reinforced” to the peception that Sinn Fein is pursuing a chaos strategy. The Green leader Steven Agnew says it seems that “Sinn Fein has no intention of going back into government”.
Both statements underplay the situation. Sinn Fein is of course pursuing a chaos strategy, knowing that Dublin and London officials will always seek ‘compromise’ when it does.
But while the comments of Dr Farry and Mr Agnew are belated and overly mild, they represent a major milestone.
Mr Agnew is even talking of voluntary coalition.
It now seems less likely that Sinn Fein will win panicked concessions for its destabilising tactics, which is good because that would just lead to future trouble.
Republicans want Northern Ireland either to fail or be changed in ways that make it deliberately uncomfortable to the pro British community.
No Tory, no unionists and none of those centrist politicians who want Northern Ireland to work can allow such a strategy to make headway.