If the opinion polls are correct, the May 5 election will return Sinn Fein as the largest Assembly party, allowing the republican movement’s mouthpiece to lay claim to the First Minister’s post.
Even though it is a joint position with the deputy First Minister, there can be no doubting that Sinn Fein will try and wangle a position akin to the Dail in Dublin where the Taoiseach, or Prime Minister, is ranked higher than the Tanaiste (deputy Prime Minister).
Of course, the key question is - will (whichever Unionist party finishes in second place to republicanism) the DUP, UUP or TUV have the courage to nominate for deputy First Minister.
Likewise, Unionism will be trying to undo the results of the three past elections where, as an ideology, it has been left in a minority position in Northern Ireland.
At present, the DUP and TUV are saying they will not nominate for the post of deputy First Minister should Sinn Fein end up with the largest number of MLAs; the UUP is hedging its bets at the moment.
However, in a worst case scenario that Unionism - after 5 May - cannot claim to be the leading ideology in Northern Ireland, the leading Unionist party should have the courage to nominate for deputy First Minister.
As policy stands, Unionism will be letting Sinn Fein off the hook politically again by handing the republican movement yet another propaganda coup.
This situation would allow republicans and nationalists to chant - look at those bigoted Unionists again, not recognising the democratic wishes of the electorate by refusing to accept the result and nominate a deputy!
But Sinn Fein has one serious Achilles heel - it has no proven track record as a competent and mature party of government. And the one occasion it did have power and influence on the island of Ireland, it sparked the bloodbath known as the Irish Civil War in the 1920s in which republican butchered republican in a manner which made the notorious Black and Tans appear like a well-disciplined military unit.
Formed in 1905 (the same year as the Ulster Unionist Council), Sinn Fein had its biggest electoral breakthrough in the Westminster General Election of 1918 after the end of Great War when it took 70 of the 105 House of Commons seats available for Ireland, then entirely under British rule.
But instead of using that mandate for serious negotiations with the British Government for some kind of dominion status for Ireland, Sinn Fein gave the green light to the War of Independence with the British the following year.
And no sooner had Sinn Fein got the Anglo-Irish Treaty, than the party split into the pro and anti-Treaty factions. The bottom line for Sinn Fein is - Sinn Fein doesn’t do democracy!
Like some kind of historic mummy’s boy, Sinn Fein has never been able to break its coat strings from taking orders from the IRA’s ruling Army Council. There is no way Sinn Fein is going to cross swords with that Army Council and risk another republican feud.
Since its inception, Sinn Fein has always operated as either a party of protest, or an apologist for the terror campaigns by the various IRAs over the generations, or both - but never as a credible, democratic and mature party of government.
Until the hunger strikes of 1980 and 1981, Sinn Fein was nothing more than an ageing fan club for the failed 1916 Dublin Rising, or pathetically defending the murder of security forces and innocent civilians during the Troubles.
It took the republican movement’s deliberate sacrificing of 10 hunger strikers - starting with Bobby Sands - to propel Sinn Fein into serious electoral politics.
Even in the current Irish Republic, bitter rivals Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil joined forces to keep Sinn Fein out of the Dublin coalition government following the last Dail General Election.
In Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein collapsed the power-sharing Executive for three years in 2017 and it was only the crisis posed by the pandemic which brought the Executive back.
The DUP then collapsed the Executive again earlier this year over the Northern Ireland Protocol. Unionists would argue - who can work with Sinn Fein?
If Unionism was to take the deputy First Minister’s post in the event of a Stormont Sinn Fein victory, it would place the republican party in a political position it has never been in its history since 1918 - in government as the leading ‘partner’.
Sinn Fein would have to ditch its Marxist-Leninist political policies in favour of a workable cross-community manifesto which Unionists could work with. This would inevitably put a strain on Sinn Fein’s close relationship with the IRA’s Army Council.
In this context, at what point does the IRA’s ruling Army Council take the view - ‘enough of this democracy lark! Collapse the entire Assembly again!’
As Sinn Fein does not take its seats in the Commons, perhaps a period of Direct Rule from Westminster would reduce the republican movement to the political backwoods and herald in an era of constitutional nationalism which Unionism could competently work with as in 1998 with the first Assembly mandate between the UUP and SDLP.
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.