Robinson's successor key to North's stability
Timing is everything. The decision by Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Peter Robinson to stand down from his roles as party leader and First Minister in the North's executive in the New Year has been the subject of intensive speculation for months, if not years.
The DUP leader has, in recent times, faced a fierce internal revolt by some party members, who believe he is not strong enough to represent the concerns of many unionists who have sought comfort in the hardline rhetoric of Mike Nesbitt, the former broadcaster turned leader of the Ulster Unionist Party.
It has been a turbulent year for Mr Robinson, whose farcical decision to step aside as First Minister last September - amid a crisis over an IRA-linked murder - contributed to the near collapse of the recently rescued assembly.