Villiers can inspire shared future drive
As Theresa Villiers approaches the first anniversary of her appointment as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, she has grown more assured in this difficult office, after a slow start.
In her interview in today's Belfast Telegraph, she points to some progress towards the development of a shared future and says: "I am happier with the situation now than I would have expected to be a few months ago."
When she came to Northern Ireland, she gave the impression that she would rather be anywhere else. This reaction is not unusual for new Northern Ireland secretaries who are required to get up to speed on a complex situation within a short time.
However, Ms Villiers has steadily gained in confidence in the key areas of her brief, and notably on the vexed question of a shared future.
One problem has been the reluctance of Westminster governments to be seen to be placing too much pressure on local politicians, partly because they do not wish to appear heavy-handed or threatening to their Stormont colleagues.
However, the general public here, though not the politicians, welcome such a lead from London partly because they cannot rely totally on the Stormont administration to deliver the basis of a shared future.
In reality, Westminster has a duty to keep a close eye on Northern Ireland, partly because the taxpayers elsewhere in the United Kingdom also contribute to paying our bills.
Initially, the approach towards a shared future was too mild, but in the run-up to the G8 summit, with its widespread publicity, it was clear that something had to be done.
Accordingly, the leadership of Theresa Villiers, with the backing of the Coalition Government, helped to focus minds here on the need for action, and this has been the high point of her achievements in Northern Ireland so far.
However, much remains to be done, and her growing confidence is needed to keep a steady hand on the tiller and to ensure that our politicians and people keep following her in the right direction.