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Robinson still in office, but not in power

Late on Monday, February 1, Peter Robinson's proposals on an agreement with Sinn Fein were in tatters. A damaged leader, who had to put Arlene Foster in to conduct the First Minister's business, had lost control of 14 members of his Assembly Party.

To many of us, inside and outside the DUP, it seemed that he was sliding out of power and could not recover. Yet by Friday, he had taken back the reins of First Ministerial office and his Assembly party, securing unanimous agreement, we are told.

The official DUP story is that Monday was a progress report, that there was more work to be done, and by Friday the work was complete; the DUP were satisfied with the additions and clarifications and the Assembly party was now satisfied with the outcome.

Sinn Fein, meanwhile, claim everything was completed a week before. The two stories are at odds.

One alternative scenario is that once the barrister gave his opinion on the narrow question of Peter Robinson's response and actions once Iris told him about the loans, Peter was able to take back the reins of power and put the clampers on his revolting colleagues. The answer is probably more complicated and fuzzy.

One day, the definitive history of this round of negotiations and what surrounded them will be published and we will then get a better grasp of what actually transpired.

Meanwhile, Peter Robinson is diminished and, like John Major in his latter days, remains in office - but not in power.

CLLR JAMES MCKERROW (UUP)

Helen's Bay, Co Down

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