There were no surprises as the DUP leader Ian Paisley flatly rejected a bid to form a power sharing executive at the shadow Belfast Assembly on Monday.
In a 14-minute session of the Assembly the veteran hardliner was asked by the speaker of the house, Eileen Bell, whether he accepted his nomination as First Minister by Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams.
Speaking first in Irish and then in English, and to some taunting from the DUP benches, Mr Adams made his nominations through the speaker. Ms Bell in turn asked Dr Paisley did he accept the nomination.
“Certainly not, Madam Speaker,” said the DUP leader. “I think it goes without saying that the reasons [for rejecting the proposal] are well known across this province, and they have been endorsed by the majority of the unionist voters,” he added.
Efforts by British officials to downplay the failure were unnecessary as Monday’s political theatre had been widely foreseen.
Mr Paisley later described the events as “a charade”, which he was glad was over. He also turned down, outside the chamber, a proposal that all the leaders of the northern political parties take part in an Assembly committee aimed at restoring devolution.
“We are coming down to the reality of the situation,” said Mr Paisley, blasting what he called “IRA/Sinn Féin”,
“Are we going to have in the Government of Northern Ireland those who are terrorists, those that condoned and even planned murders, who robbed banks, who committed criminal acts and who will not support the police?
“The answer of Ulster is no. There is no place in any government in the United Kingdom for those wedded to terrorism.”
There had been no expectation ahead of the meeting that a DUP First Minister and a Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister would have been elected.
Despite the failure of his proposal to select Mr Paisley and Sinn Féin MP Martin McGuinness to head up a power sharing administration, Gerry Adams.
Recalling a famous Ian Paisley speech, the Sinn Féin leader said: “No is better than never, never, never.”
He continued: “We’re in the business of trying to set up an executive. “Others are here to string it out and engage in distractions and in a shadow Assembly. We are totally and absolutely opposed to that.
“We have put forward a series of propositions which are all about trying to get engagement through a committee or a series of committees with a very tight focus that it has to be about the formation of an executive.”
The British government has confirmed it is planning to establish a cross-party committee in the Assembly to discuss how to restore power-sharing. The committee could ease the way for a historic first official direct talks between the DUP and Sinn Féin.
Mr Adams said Sinn Féin would return speedily to the task of trying to get First and Deputy First Ministers elected.
However he added that the DUP could only say no for a few more times and if it still refused to share power the onus was on the British and Irish Governments to implement outstanding obligations under the Good Friday Agreement.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern have given Assembly members until November 24th to elect a power sharing government.