Trust may still be a long way off, but are Protestants beginning — tentatively, and in small numbers, but starting nonetheless — to accept in government the man most of them would once have detested?
That is the most interesting question arising from today’s opinion poll.
Perhaps more than any other Northern Ireland politician, Martin McGuinness has arguably come to embody the peace process in terms of its past, present and potential.
No other individual has shifted from the leadership of the most efficient terrorist killing machine to the very top of Stormont’s power-sharing administration.
A man who was once so reviled and feared that his words — and those of his Sinn Fein colleagues — were spoken by actors is now recognised as the most impressive politician in the devolution era.
And as today’s Belfast Telegraph/Inform Communications survey underpins, no other Executive minister has performed with such aplomb or made such a cross-community impact. He is streets ahead of even his nearest rival (and she is a party colleague, Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew).
Whether it’s this poll or last week’s award from the political insiders involved in the Slugger O’Toole website which named him Politician of the Year, the accolades keep on coming for Mr McGuinness.
But it is a significant rating among Protestants to the question of which Stormont minister has “most impressed” — higher than for most unionist ministers, apart from Peter Robinson, Sir Reg Empey and Arlene Foster — which most surprises.
Professor Rick Wilford, acting head of the School of Politics at Queen’s University, Belfast, believes Mr McGuinness’ poll endorsement is recognition that he has made the transition from violent past to political present. And he predicts it may make it easier to accept Mr McGuinness in a more prominent role.
“While for many unionists such recognition and respect may be grudging, nevertheless it is a remarkable outcome which suggests that should Sinn Fein emerge as the largest single party at the next Assembly election, then his prospective role as First Minister may not be regarded as an unmitigated disaster by many, including some unionists,” he said.
The key moment may have been when Mr McGuinness referred to dissident republican groups who killed two soldiers and a PSNI officer in March as “traitors to the people of Ireland”.
Although Sinn Fein strategists will be slightly wary of the effect Mr McGuinness’ popularity with a Stormont government has on its own grassroots, it is unlikely that he will face the same backlash that met the Rev Ian Paisley from supporters angry at his close ties with a former enemy.
Though he doesn’t do the sackcloth and ashes his ‘Chuckle Brother’ Mr Paisley once asked for, Mr McGuinness has a quality of not taking other people’s enmity personally, and showing opponents respect.
And outside of the complicated area of forgiveness, there is a trait in human nature which can’t help but respond positively to that.