THE ULSTER Unionist resignations from the fledgling Belfast administration mean that only a large-scale act of IRA weapons decommissioning can rescue devolution from temporary and perhaps permanent oblivion.
The heartening fact for those who support the administration, and the peace process in general, is that the signs have never been more favourable that something substantial from the IRA is on the cards.
As things stand, the message from a range of sources - security, political and republican - is strikingly and unusually in accord. The word is that a major move on guns is eminently possible.
Stretching back over the past seven years, Irish and British newspapers have printed scores of stories predicting that decommissioning was about to happen. This time, finally, they could be right.
Sources who advised against optimism in the past are now saying that things could be different. People on the security side say the IRA seems to be gearing up for some move, and looks prepared to act if the conditions are right.
People on the political side say that Sinn Fein is locked in negotiations involving London, Dublin and the Unionist party, with the republicans seeking concessions on policing, demilitarisation and the future stability of the assembly. …