Peter Robinson's statement gives a tantalizing clue about his position towards McGuinness.

Is Peter Robinson serious this time in his Christmas message that he does not want Northern Ireland ruled from London?

As the political crisis over the devolving of policing and justice continues, Robinson has once again played the conciliatory card.

Robinson stated, "I do not pretend that the government we have at Stormont is perfect – no government is – but it is infinitely more preferable to the only alternative: direct rule, with no say for local people in how we are governed. I have no desire to see the country I love relegated to the status of a colony and presided over by a series of here-today-gone-tomorrow direct rulers, Tory or Labour."

Amazingly it is a statement that could have been written by any nationalist leader of the past 30 years and shows how close both sides have become in their outlook of what is best for Northern Ireland .

Yet there is no certainty that Robinson intends to follow up and try and heal the rift between himself and Martin McGuinness on the key issues.

There is a tantalizing clue however, in other comments he made in his statement, where he gives McGuinness a major backhanded compliment for speaking out against the killing of two British soldiers earlier this year.

"The universal reaction of all right-thinking people in our community, including some who had previously refused to condemn such barbarity, showed us that such wreckers will not succeed. Devolved government in its current form might not be the ideal, but it is the best way to make a success of our province."

If Robinson can only see that what McGuinness did then is what is required of him now. The single act of bravery led to a complete rethink on the part of many unionists about McGuinness. It showed up in a recent opinion poll where McGuinness had significant support on the unionist side.

Robinson needs to grasp that same nettle now and do the right thing by the devolved government he leads in Northern Ireland. The American trips, the chats with Gordon Brown, the access to Dublin at the highest level, are all predicated on a good faith effort to make the process work. They will not continue forever unless political courage is shown. There are many in America who are already dismissive of Robonson as another David Trimble, unable to deliver.

Robinson has been wavering on that point for several months now. It is time to come off the fence and deliver on the program for government.

The Christmas speech is a good springboard to start from.