"What absolutely is an imperative is to have an agreement on the transfer of power, and a date for the transfer of power, before Christmas.
I have to say if it slips past Christmas we are in deep trouble."
Deep trouble in January translates into Executive stalemate, because the DUP could not afford the repercussions of an agreement on the transfer in the imminent Westminster elections.
But Executive stalemate could translate into a resignation by McGuinness, triggering almost certain elections to the Assembly – one result of which could be that McGuinness is returned as First Minister, leading in its turn to a unionist refusal to participate in the Executive, and thus a highly uncertain future for Northern Ireland.
The DUP's footdragging on the transfer of policing and justice was always likely to lead to trouble in the end. It seems, though, that the timing of the inevitable crisis may have been micro-managed by Sinn Féin to ensure that it falls at a time that causes most difficulty to the DUP.
Caught between a grand coalition of nationalism and all external opinion on one side, and the backwoodsmen of the extreme unionist fringes on the other, the DUP has acted like a rabbit in the headlights – unable to go forward, unable to go backward – and, like the poor rabbit, it may end up as roadkill. Nobody will feel sorry for the DUP if this happens.