Margaret Ritchie, newly elected leader of the SDLP 'has re-affirmed her party's nationalism, implicitly moving away from suggestions of any sort of Assembly link with the Ulster Unionists and Alliance Party'.
This puts a small spanner in the works for those who had hoped to prise the SDLP away from Sinn Féin, and to co-opt them into a 'voluntary coalition' arrangement, the sole purpose of which would be to permanently exclude Sinn Féin from power.
Ritchie's rival, Alasdair McDonnell, was known to favour closer cooperation between the SDLP and the UUP and Alliance to form a 'centrist' group in the Assembly. In such a scenario, of course, the SDLP could have been enticed by its new unionist 'friends' to accept a place in a voluntary coalition, and Sinn Féin – in the dreams of unionists – would have been cast out into the darkness. Unionism would have made up the lion's share of the voluntary coalition, and thus would have held the majority of the posts and most of the power. The sun would again have started to shine in the blue skies of unionist 'Ulster'.
But with Ritchie asserting a clearly nationalist agenda, the fantasy of voluntary coalition is unlikely to come about, and the blue sky is clouding over. The future, whether or not unionists like it, involves sharing power with Sinn Féin as equals, not just throwing a few titbits to the SDLP as a junior member of a voluntary coalition.