THE low-level chaos that has accompanied the return of the political institutions is not of sufficient import to threaten the newly-minted Executive and Assembly, but it is indicative of a pressing need for all of the parties to take a deep breath and approach the weeks and months to come with a little more care and thought.

• The new DUP speaker threatened to punch TUV leader Jim Allister.
• Sinn Féin – once upon a time willing to pull the institutions down over the Irish language – have spurned the two departments who have real power over the language.
• Alliance threatened to boycott the Executive before it was reconvened in a huff over  the number of ministers it was entitled to.
• An internal fight erupted inside the UUP over its appointment of Robin Swann as the new Health Minister and his nomination as the party’s South Antrim Westminster candidate.
• The SDLP suspended an MLA in an extraordinary kerfuffle involving a game of football and a helicopter.

That’s more spats than we can afford to see in the first two days of government, but they are essentially parochial issues with no real cut-across ability to interfere with the  inter-party relationships essential to the survival of the institutions. And it was to be expected that a media corps deprived of Stormont drama for two years would fall greedily on the smallest hint of discord.

But these bunfights are indicative of an immaturity that has always dogged devolved government here – a repeated failure to look beyond party housekeeping for the good of all. No-one is naive enough to believe that selfish party interests don’t lie at the heart of every functioning administration on the planet, but the inability of the parties here to resist playing to the gallery is the mark of an institution ill at ease with itself and a collection of MLAs lacking in the experience and sophistication required to bring about the level of collegiality required in an effectively functioning legislature.

That is not to say there are not people at the head of the parties who are capable of doing what’s required to ensure the latest Stormont can do an effective job. Sinn Féin and the SDLP, for instance, have ordered their reps to refuse to have anything to do with the Nolan Show – a programme that thrives by tying cats’ tails together and throwing them over a clothesline so listeners can delight in the scratching and hissing. The local media is chock-full of platforms and individuals that are anathema to the very idea of good governance – and too many MLAs are willing to play monkey to those organ grinders in return for publicity. Coming to grips with the health crisis, education, pay, legacy and a host of other pressing issues is too important to be side-tracked by personal ego and vanity.

The business of improving people’s lives is a communal political task, and it’s possible only when goodwill is allied to determination and discipline.

Let’s start seeing some.