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Smiles can't mask the disharmony

BY NOEL MCADAM

Published 05/04/2014

No doubt at some point next week we'll see a photo opportunity for our First Minister and Deputy First Minister, out together and doing the business.

But behind the scenes their two parties have been spoiling for a fight for some time and tensions are being exacerbated by the looming elections next month.

A sometimes fraught but always workmanlike relationship between Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness has been increasingly frayed since their agreement over the Maze Conflict and Resolution Centre fell apart last summer.

Continued and trenchant failure to reach a final compromise on the long-delayed Education and Skills Authority also feeds their mutual frustration.

Then bubbling away in the background for months has been the face-off over welfare reform with this week both the First Minister and Deputy First Minister entering the ring to slug it out.

Despite any rumoured deals over reform, Sinn Fein cannot be seen to be implementing austerity in the North while its main focus is on gains in the European elections in the Republic. The DUP has attempted a carefully choreographed pincer movement to keep Sinn Fein on the back foot, knowing that cutting benefits is an issue popular with its own voters.

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