Don't let crisis around Kevin McGuigan murder spiral out of control
There have been many political crises at Stormont but the latest one is potentially the most serious for a very long time. It arises from the PSNI placing blame on the Provisional IRA for the murder of Kevin McGuigan, and the Chief Constable George Hamilton chose his words carefully in the full knowledge of the important ramifications of his statement.
As a result leading unionists are calling for the exclusion of Sinn Fein from Stormont, and Ian Paisley MP claims that in the long run the political institutions cannot continue without a significant change in attitude from that party.
Mr Paisley is aware that this is unlikely to happen, so essentially he is arguing, like Peter Robinson on an earlier occasion, that the current Stormont model is not sustainable.
This would mean direct rule and the end of power-sharing, perhaps for a long time.
Added to this is the long deadlock over the unresolved welfare reform crisis. The outlook is grim.
Of course there will be reluctance from unionist and nationalist politicians to collapse a system which has been put together very slowly and painfully, and failure at Stormont would be disastrous for our image and for inward investment.
It is easy to point fingers at the main culprits, but Sinn Fein is entirely exposed, with its credibility tarnished by recent events.
A large majority in our weary populace simply do not believe the constant denials, and Gerry Kelly's continued insistence that the IRA was not behind the Northern Bank robbery sums up this ever-evasive attitude.
Similarly, the remarks by the mother of Paul Quinn, reported in today's paper, trump any political considerations. Speaking of her son's brutal murder, she claims starkly that "the IRA are still out and about, and Sinn Fein knows who did it".
All of this puts Sinn Fein is a very bad light, despite the party's constant denials.
It has placed the Stormont political parties in an extremely difficult position, and the party has caused untold damage to the reputation and integrity of our political system.
Sadly, it is not clear at this moment how the damage can be repaired and how Stormont can be retained and made more functional. This is a time for patience and clear thinking on all sides to prevent the current crisis from spiralling out of political control.