While republicans, and especially Sinn Fein, have been commemorating the 40th anniversary of the 1981 hunger strikes, the unbelievable events over the past couple of weeks in the DUP should cause Sinn Fein to remember another event from four decades ago - a speech by then Liberal Party leader David Steel when he said: “go back to your constituencies and prepare for government.”
Ever since DUP boss Edwin Poots was ratified as party leader by a show of hands instead of a secret ballot last Thursday evening in a Belfast hotel, brinkmanship has been the order of the day as Democratic Unionists air their so-called dirty political linen in public for the first mayor time since the movement was launched half a century ago.
While current Stormont First Minister (as of this morning!) Arlene Foster has said she initially wished she wanted to remain in post until the end of June, Mr Poots may take the political bull by the horns and unveil his own Stormont Ministerial team tomorrow - an announcement which Mrs Foster has said will trigger her resignation as First Minister.
Given that the First Minister’s post is a joint one with the deputy First Minister, Mrs Foster’s resignation would automatically put her deputy - Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill - out of her individual post.
That starts the political clock on a seven day countdown in which the DUP and Sinn Fein have to agree to nominate the new First Minister, and presumably, Michelle O’Neill returning as deputy First Minister.
If that fails to happen, the Tory Secretary of State Brandon Lewis will call an early Assembly election even though a Stormont poll is not due until May 2022.
And given the state of the opinion polls at the moment, a snap election could benefit Sinn Fein resulting in a situation whereby Northern Ireland marks the centenary of the Unionist-dominated state in 1921 with a republican First Minister.
Given the clear divisions within the DUP and the obvious coup which toppled Mrs Foster, there is a strong chance Sinn Fein could emerge as the largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly as Sinn Fein is only one seat behind the DUP in the chamber.
If Mrs Foster does resign earlier than expected from the First Minister’s post, Sinn Fein may have a wish list to slap on Mr Poots’ in-tray to wring more concessions from the DUP before it agrees to Mr Poots’ nomination for First Minister.
Top of the Sinn Fein wish list would be a clear timetable for the introduction of a dedicated Irish Language Act at Stormont, a move which the DUP has always dragged its political feet over.
While the pandemic crisis may well be the bitter medicine which cures any demands for an early Stormont elections and the need to introduce a post Covid economic recovery for Northern Ireland, should there be a snap poll, then the real battle could be for who emerges as the second biggest party at Parliament Buildings.
If the past three Northern Ireland elections are taken as a benchmark, then the middle of the road Alliance Party under the leadership of former MEP Naomi Long is odds-on to become deputy First Minister in a Sinn Fein-Alliance led power-sharing Executive.
While the centre ground in Northern Ireland politics will be the big battle ground in any future Stormont poll - whether later this year or in May 2022 - the appointment of Upper Bann MLA and veteran highly decorated war hero Doug Beattie as leader of the election-battered Ulster Unionist Party could see a rejuvenation of the party.
While the UUP held the First Minister’s post in the inaugural Assembly mandate in 1998, the party was overtaken electorally at Stormont in 2003 and has been sliding gradually ever since, even losing its supposedly rock solid European seat to Alliance in the last European poll before the UK left the EU.
Unionism is now a minority ideology electorally in Northern Ireland with Alliance being the big beneficiary. Since its formation as a non-sectarian, middle of the road movement in the early 1970s (around the same time as the DUP’s formation!) the party has been transformed from a ‘wine and cheese supper brigade’ into a clear liberal and progressive party, winning seats across all of Northern Ireland.
However, some Unionists may see the so-called Alliance Bounce as merely a protest vote against the DUP, so could the real battle for the centre ground be between Alliance and the so-called Beattie Bounce as the new UUP boss implements clear liberal and progressive visionary policies?
A reinvigorated UUP under Beattie could also take advantage of the current perceived infighting in the DUP so that the next Stormont Executive could see a coalition fronted by Sinn Fein and the UUP.
However, given the increasing voter apathy in traditionally Unionist constituencies, the Beattie Bounce’s first challenge will be to mobilise the pro-union vote across Northern Ireland - and that’s even before the pro-union community comes up with a Plan B to replace the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol.
While weather forecasts are predicting a very warm Bank Holiday Monday in Northern Ireland, all sides will be wanting to avoid a political long hot summer, especially in loyalist communities.
Follow Dr John Coulter on Twitter @JohnAHCoulter
Listen to commentator Dr John Coulter’s programme, Call In Coulter, every Saturday morning around 10.15 am on Belfast’s Christian radio station, Sunshine 1049 FM. Listen online.