Malachi O'Doherty, writing in the Belfast Telegraph, however has managed to put his finger on the issue, and his article makes uncomfortable reading:
Not only does the unionist determination to retain the symbolic First Minster position say a lot about the future – it also shouts that unionists have never, in the on-off history of the institutions, truly seen Martin McGuinness as co-equal. It post facto colours the whole commitment of unionism to the power-sharing arrangements – implying a completely conditional and incomplete participation by unionism.
"… Sinn Fein, which no doubt would relish topping the poll, makes the argument that it shouldn't really matter whether the First Minister is a nationalist or a unionist. Their interpretation is that the First and Deputy First Ministers hold equal positions.
For unionists, the difference between the two positions is so important that, apparently, practically every issue which divides the DUP and the Ulster Unionist Party can be compromised to prevent Sinn Fein appointing a First Minister in Northern Ireland.
So, what does this say about unionism?
Well, for a start it says that neither unionist party accepts that the First and Deputy First Ministers are equal. There is only one of those positions which either main unionist party thinks a unionist should fill.
By positioning themselves to form an alliance to prevent Sinn Fein taking the First Ministry, both unionist parties are attempting to refute the Sinn Fein understanding that there is currently a requirement on unionism to treat republicans as equals.
If the unionists are seriously saying that they could not bear to serve under a Sinn Fein First Minister, duly elected, under agreements which they have assented to, then there are disturbing implications that follow from that.
The first of these is that unionist assent to the Good Friday Agreement and the St Andrews Agreement are qualified; they are conditional on the maintenance of a unionist majority."
There is more at stake in the current 'crisis' than merely the transfer of policing and justice, and the careless assumption that once P+J are transferred 'devolution' will be complete is seen to be very far short of the reality.