I saw some utterly ludicrous parallels being made between Greek politics and various other places in recent days, but the one lesson is that a Leader who does the right thing in practice, even if at odds with what he pledged in theory, will be rewarded by the electorate.
Sinn Féin knows it is not in its interests to be seen as a party of inherent instability, and it has enough intelligent people in its ranks to know a deal must be done on welfare. That is, after all, why it did one last December.
What really caused the problem was the SDLP’s ludicrous u-turn for purely party political gain. Having once, as a responsible party of government and holder of the relevant ministry, accepted there were “2.6 billion reasons for maintaining parity” (a direct quote from a current SDLP MLA in support of a current SDLP MP), it then thought it would try to make electorate life tricky for its main rival by resorting to outright populism. This, of course, did not work as Sinn Féin simply carried out the same u-turn, aware there couldn’t be electoral consequences because its main rival (in Northern Ireland) had done the precise same thing.
As there are now 3.1 billion reasons for maintaining parity, it is time for the SDLP (and actually also the voluntary sector) to wise up. The current welfare system does not work; the new system can be Northern Ireland-ised up to a point; and there is no more money and time to waste.
This is a negotiation, not a debate. In a negotiation, we all need room for manoeuvre. If Sinn Féin has the courage to do the right thing, it should be backed.