Given all the back-slapping which the DUP’s teams in the House of Commons and the Lords received, it is very clear the hardliners from the Westminster clique run the party.
Put bluntly, the numbers do not stack up for the party’s devolutionist wing to recommend a return of the power-sharing Executive this side of the Hallowe’en school holidays.
And also given the warm speech reception provided by DUP boss Sir Jeffrey Donaldson for Hilary Benn, British Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, its abundantly clear the DUP is now riding two horses ahead of next year’s expected Westminster General Election.
The policy is to continue talking to Sunak’s Tories, but also hold out hope of a better deal from Benn and Labour boss Sir Keir Starmer if Labour gets the keys to 10 Downing Street.
But all this, in terms of a deal with Labour, could be up to a year away and will the Westminster establishment have the patience to allow Northern Ireland to operate without a fully functioning Assembly?
With the bloody Israel/Hamas conflict in the Middle East now taking centre stage over even the current Russia/Ukraine conflict, the DUP will be hoping any bad news for Northern Ireland concerning the cost of living crisis, the NHS waiting lists, or the impact of the Windsor Framework will be pushed far down the political agenda.
In DUP strategical terms, the ‘long finger’ approach to power-sharing seems the obvious path, but that is assuming working class loyalism can be kept on a tight leash by political Unionism.
If working class loyalism gets a whiff that the DUP, or even political Unionism generally, is deciding to go back to Stormont and try to mess up the Windsor Framework from the inside, there is the real danger that those unelected voices who seem to be shouting from the sidelines in working class loyalism could decide that it was time for political Unionism and loyalism to part company tactically.
There is already talk of a resumption of street protests against the Windsor Framework. However, given the experience of a winter street campaign in the 1985/86 era against the then Anglo-Irish Agreement, is there seriously much of an appetite in loyalism for parades in the rain, hail or snow and freezing cold of an Ulster winter?
Yes, a few youths may decide to chuck some bottles and bricks at the PSNI in the dead of winter, but they would really be cannon fodder for the real threat - a resumption of a serious terror campaign against the Irish Republic.
Is there really a new Glenanne-style Gang of loyalists waiting in the wings, or is talk about a Right-wing loyalist backlash against the Windsor Framework merely childish sabre-rattling to gain a few media headlines?
The original Glenanne Gang was widely linked to the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan no-warning loyalist bombs which murdered around 30 people and injured dozens more.
Skeptics may say loyalism no longer has the capacity for a bombing campaign as the main loyalist terror gangs, the UDA and UVF, are more interested in criminality and drug dealing than combating the Windsor Framework.
However, the nature of terrorism has radically changed since the 9/11 attacks in America. Gone are the Seventies days of the Ulster Workers’ Council strike, which collapsed the then power-sharing Sunningdale Executive, when Northern Ireland witnessed massed ranks of loyalists marching in roads and streets.
Terror gangs are no longer organised along the lines of British Army regiments with battalions, brigades, companies and platoons. Radical Islam has perfected the concept of the cell structure where one small gang of a handful of activists does not know what another gang is doing.
This makes it more difficult for the security forces and especially the intelligence community to infiltrate these terror gangs.
Dissident republicans have already tried this tactic with the various factions - New IRA, Real IRA, Continuity IRA, ONH and Republican Action Against Drugs. Ironically, the decision by some of these terror gangs to work together has made it easier for the intelligence community to infiltrate them.
The strategy which modern day loyalists are likely to adopt in any violent campaign against the Windsor Framework is not likely to involve the UDA or UVF because of existing infiltration of them by the security forces.
The most likely campaign would be to conceive new small groups of terrorists who have no previous convictions or connections to loyalism. Such operatives would be difficult to spot as while they would be loyalists, they would not be associated with the Loyal Orders, loyalist marching bands or had a profile at previous anti-Protocol rallies.
They may not even be members of any Unionist party. In reality, they are ordinary Protestants operating well under the radar of the intelligence community.
A cell would be established with one target in mind and that is the only operation they carry out. This would be contrary to the strategies of previous terror gangs, such as the Mid Ulster Brigade of the UVF during the era of Robin ‘The Jackal’ Jackson, or Billy ‘King Rat’ Wright where numerous murders and attacks were carried out.
Likewise, it is unlikely such cells would cause chaos in Northern Ireland. The real target would be the Irish Republic. For example, in 1974 when it became clear Sunningdale was heading for the political rocks, the Irish government attempted to break the logjam by putting proposals on the table which amounted to joint authority by another name.
However, following the Dublin and Monaghan bombing massacre, the Republic’s administration withdrew its proposals. Similarly, in spite of the supposedly current booming Southern economy, does the Republic have the financial clout to withstand a no-warning and indiscriminate loyalist bombing campaign.
The Israel/Hamas conflict has clearly emphasised the horrors being suffered by the civilian populations. The South’s Achilles heel is not attacks on Gardai, the Irish Defence Forces or Leinster House elected representatives, but to target ordinary innocent civilians as was demonstrated in the 1974 attacks.
The delicate balancing act which the DUP, and political Unionism generally, must adopt is to keep the pro-Union community on board with any proposed return to Stormont whilst ensuring at the same time that militant voices within loyalism who would favour a use of violence remain unheard.
Just as Sir Jeffrey can state that he is the leader, not just of the DUP, but of overall political Unionism, another question remains - who is the real leader of loyalism? Put bluntly, are there being in the dark shadows now calling the shots?
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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.