Monday, February 10 was not a good day for unionism in Northern Ireland. Sinn Fein had defied the odds and expectations (even its own predictions were well short of the votes and seats it won) and emerged as the largest party in the Irish election, with almost 25% and 37 seats.
Both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael had done much worse than expected and there was a possibility, albeit a slim one, that Mary Lou McDonald - who hadn't softened the rhetoric of Gerry Adams, or distanced herself from the IRA campaign - would emerge as Taoiseach.
Even if that weren't to happen, there remained a fear within unionism that Sinn Fein would be given a key role in a coalition government, with the promise of a border poll and a minister and department committed to promoting and preparing for Irish unity as the price for their support.
Micheal Martin and Leo Varadkar had made pre-election pledges that they would not embrace a coalition with Sinn Fein, but as one of the shrewdest political observers in the DUP told me at the time, "Fianna Fail may find it much harder to exclude Sinn Fein now that it has emerged as the largest party. Anyway, Martin doesn't won't to go down in history as the first leader of his party not to have held the office of Taoiseach."
Sinn Fein in government on both sides of the border is the stuff of unionist nightmares, particularly at a time when the ultimate fallout from Brexit remains up in the air and most unionist leaders - even if they wouldn't say so out loud - don't trust Boris Johnson.
While some comfort is taken from the fact that the wording of the Belfast Agreement suggests that a border poll can only be triggered by the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, most senior unionists fear that Johnson and Dominic Cummings (who doesn't appear to lose any sleep over the constitutional status of Northern Ireland) would find a way around that wording if they had to.
So, unionists will be pleased that the next Irish Government will not include Sinn Fein. They'll take further comfort from knowing that the coalition will have enough on its plate - Covid-19; paying back debts; re-energising the economy; avoiding redundancies; stopping another, deadlier round of the virus in the next few months; and Brexit - without taking on the hassle of a border poll and unity.
They'll be particularly pleased that cross-border meetings won't involve Sinn Fein ministers from Belfast and Dublin having their own side-meetings and prioritising their own agenda beforehand.
Crucially, the coalition's proposed Programme for Government is fluffy, almost invisible, on the issue of a united Ireland: "We are committed to working with all communities and traditions on the island to build consensus around a shared future.
"This consensus will be underpinned by the Good Friday Agreement and by the absolute respect for the principle of consent. We will establish a unit within the Department of An Taoiseach to work towards a consensus on a shared island. This unit will examine the political, social, economic, and cultural considerations underpinning a future in which all traditions are mutually respected."
Just imagine how that paragraph would have been worded had Sinn Fein had a hand in its drafting; or how unionists would have felt had the strategy outlined in a Sinn Fein-approved draft been headed up by a Sinn Fein minister?
No surprise, then, that a letter in yesterday's Irish Times noted: "The Civil War was fought over acceptance of, or opposition to, the partition of Ireland. For the past 70 years and more, both Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have accepted and even guarded partition. Hence, while it is filled with commendable aspirations, the agreed document for government avoids any mention of partition, much less a border poll. Rather than wonder at the coming together of these two big parties, we might wonder at what took them so long."
There will be a temptation for unionism to heave a huge sigh of relief at this point and believe that some more time has been bought. Micheal Martin, likely to be Taoiseach at the end of the month, has no interest in a border poll and says that, for Sinn Fein, the border poll is "just another ruse to satisfy their base, knowing full well that it was just reducing the whole thing to numbers: 51 to 49 is just so infantile in my view".
Leo Varadkar has a similar degree of enthusiasm for anything smacking of a "unity project".
As I say, there will be a temptation within the leadership of unionism to heave the sigh and sit on its hands. Nothing to see here. Nothing to fear. Nothing to worry about. So, let's do nothing.
That, I think, would be the worst position to take, or approach to adopt. Over the past few years, I have got to know a number of significant political, party and advisory 'players' in the south and I've been surprised by the number who have said to me something along the lines of: no matter how many unionists you get to know, it's always extraordinarily difficult to work out what makes them tick.
My favourite line came during an event a few months ago: "Alex, I can give you a list of what really annoys unionists, but I could barely muster the first line of a list of what really matters to them, or how we can help them."
There is a new opportunity now for diplomatic bridges and lines of communication to be opened between unionism (and I don't just mean the DUP, by the way) and the incoming Irish Government.
This form of government hasn't existed before, meaning that there hasn't been a previous opportunity for unionism to talk to Fine Gael and Fianna Fail at the same time about the same things.
Unionism must not squander the opportunity. This is a government which shares many of the concerns about Sinn Fein that unionism has had for decades.
It is a government which doesn't even come close to prioritising a united Ireland.
It is a government which wants to avoid a Brexit outcome which could do enormous economic damage on both sides of the border. It is a government which wants to avoid the sort of instability and potential violence that any rush to Irish unity would cause.
It is a government that wants a functioning, cohesive Executive in Belfast to cooperate in dealing with a number of problems, particularly Covid-19 and Brexit. It is a government with which unionism can - and should - do business.
For far too long, the default position within unionism has been to assume no Irish Government can be trusted.
But this is a new kind of government and my instinct is that unionism should begin from a position of trusting and testing it.
Unionism has a long history of not seizing the moment, or playing a good hand, when it is unexpectedly presented.
There is a moment and a good hand right now - neither should be wasted.