After the murder of the two British soldiers in Antrim on Saturday night, I thought the response to the brutal killings would be a real test for Sinn Fein. For too long, their responses have been characterised by equivocation and weasel words, and having listened to them for decades both before and after the peace process, I expected another set of carefully calculated platitudes on this occasion. Their response on Sunday acknowledged that the killings were wrong, but had a cold, calculated feel to them.
That's what makes the press conference by Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson with Chief Constable Hugh Orde yesterday such an important moment. The penny seemed finally to have dropped with McGuinness that the killing of a police officer was not simply another pawn on the Republican chess board known as the 'peace process' (never quite what everyone else regarded the process as being), and he expressed himself with unprecedented emotion and feeling. Even Gerry Adams, always a cooler customer, seemed to have been liberated from self-imposed P O Neill mode on Channel Four News last night. When the DUP and Sinn Fein joined together in government, it was a truly remarkable moment. But yesterday was the day when the process - and Sinn Fein - finally showed its maturity.
This post has been picked up by Mick Fealty at Slugger O'Toole and the Telegraph, and by the New Statesman.