Relations at the heart of the Stormont Executive are in danger of sinking to a new low after spats between the DUP and Sinn Fein culminated with a row over how to heal community divisions.
The fall-out has embarrassingly resulted in two alternative blueprints for reducing sectarian division being released by the power-sharing coalition partners.
And the situation is now being condemned as summing up the current state of the devolved administration.
The breakdown in plans to issue an agreed Government document on community relations comes on top of controversies on replacing the 11 plus, devolving policing and justice powers, the legal definition of Troubles victims and the future shape of power-sharing arrangements.
Recriminations are continuing over a prolonged failure within the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) to agree a good relations strategy on “cohesion, sharing and integration”.
SDLP MLA Alex Attwood said the fall-out represented the “defining example of paralysis at the heart of devolved institutions”.
He added: “Insults, the blame game and damage limitation is now the DUP/Sinn Fein strategy of choice. That the latest dispute is about a shared society is a final indictment.
“Our community was told the DUP/Sinn Fein model was the only one. We were told it would be different after it came into place. Our community gave them the opportunity to govern in all our interests and they have blown it.”
Ulster Unionist Party deputy leader Danny Kennedy likewise commented: “The failure of the DUP and Sinn Fein to deliver a strategy for cohesion, sharing and integration has become a farce.”
The DUP's Jeffrey Donaldson yesterday slammed Sinn Fein for deciding to unilaterally issue its own document this week.
Mr Donaldson countered by releasing a community relations paper that had been drawn up within OFMDFM, but not finally agreed.
He argued: “Sinn Fein is really living up to their name here. Their document represents ‘themselves alone’. The document I am publishing represents the views of a wide range of people.
“Sinn Fein needs to understand that behaviour of this kind will not win them any plaudits.”
Sinn Fein MLA John O'Dowd, however, claimed his party had tried for months to get the DUP on board for a joint approach.
“Let the DUP come clean and tell the public that their opposition to this is actually based on opposition to the equality and human rights agenda which must underpin future good relations,” he added.
A major sticking point in the internal discussions at OFMDFM has concerned Sinn Fein's insistence of a central ‘equality’ focus within a community relations strategy.
Last year strains between the DUP and Sinn Fein led to a five-month gap in meetings of the Executive.