ANOTHER day, another wait for a DUP decision. Tuesday evening’s meeting of senior DUP figures – like the same meeting last Friday – produced absolutely nothing by way of a decision on the Stormont stand-off. But at least this time we were spared the toe-curlingly embarrassing intervention of the self-styled ‘Biggest Show in the Country’.

That programme claimed in a breathless report – which host Stephen Nolan interrupted his lengthy California holiday to phone in – that Friday’s meeting was ‘make or break’, prompting the inevitable whinnies of alarm and disgust from the nags in the staunch stables. Turns out it wasn’t. 

No such excitable fanfare preceded this week’s meeting, just as no overheated commentary followed it. But ahead of Tuesday’s latest get-together, Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris announced that he was extending the deadline for the calling of an election to February 8, prompting another round of speculation about another possible bout of choreography.

At the best of times this would provoke a shrug of the shoulders or a sigh of resignation, but with the £3.3 billion on offer from the British Exchequer sitting doing nothing at a time of unprecedented challenges and need, the non-stop posturing is leading to an ever-deepening sense of anger and frustration. DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson is not making a technical constitutional point when he laments the damage to sovereignty being wrought by the Windsor Framework and the Protocol (the Protocol he warmly welcomed on the BBC’s Spotlight programme, remember). He is sending an uncompromising message to  those struggling to pay their bills; to those languishing on hospital waiting lists as their life clocks tick; to those watching their wages shrink further every week. And that message is that while his colleagues continue to fight like rats in a sack over a political arrangement that their passion for Brexit brought about, it is more important that he stay in his job by doing nothing than it is for him to take the steps needed to address the multiple challenges facing us.

Longer term, of course, this grim charade ensures increasingly gloomy prospects for partition and the union. 103 years have been spent on this failed attempt to prove that a cohesive society could ever be formed from a grotesque sectarian headcount. Half of that time was spent as a single-party theocracy while the time since has been spent proving in spades that the count-the-Protestants experiment is not salvageable.

The debate over whether or not the DUP is staying out because of a refusal to countenance a nationalist First Minister continues, but in reality there is no debate to be had. Of course the prospect of Michelle O’Neill at the head of government appals the DUP. But is it on the agenda when these meetings take place? It doesn’t have to be. If there comes a time when an offer is on the table that divides the party and a tough decision has to be made, that enmity will always prove decisive.