Tom Griffin (London, The Green Ribbon): Gordon Brown's decision to rule out an autumn election has come as something of a relief in Northern Ireland, where election campaigns have often blocked political progress in the past. The main parties are finding the transition to government difficult enough as it is.
Old habits of political grandstanding were in evidence this week as the Stormont Assembly debated a ban on the use of the Irish language in the chamber. The Ulster Unionist proposal was always going to be vetoed by nationalists. In the event, it was defeated on a straight majority with votes from the Alliance party. Meanwhile the DUP found itself mired in controversy over Northern Ireland's largest tourist attraction, the Giants Causeway, after Environment Minister Arlene Foster announced that she was minded to award the contract for a £20 million Visitors' Centre to a developer who turned out to be a party member.
Sinn Féin also has its problems. Minister Caitríona Ruane refused to cross a picket line of classroom assistants last week. The significance of this gesture was something of a moot point, given that Ruane holds the education portfolio. The one minister who has taken a bold decision is the SDLP's Margaret Ritchie, who in August threatened to withdraw £1.2 million in funding for loyalist groups if the UDA failed to decommission by a deadline which passed this week. Support for Ritchie's stand from the other three executive parties has been conspicuous by its absence.
The Executive is due to publish its agenda in the next three weeks, and that may prove to be a key moment if it is to avoid devolving into a series of partisan fiefdoms. The agenda is expected to have an increased focus on the economy, for which the outcome of Sir David Varney's corporation tax review will be crucial. There are high hopes that Varney will deliver tax breaks for businesses in Northern Ireland in some form, but the current state of play in the executive does not form an auspicious backdrop.