THE phoney war may be over, and the jabs and punches being thrown since the May election last year have been merely a prelude to a full-on conflict.
But we need to be clear. This is a truly sectarian vote. Before you find a high horse to mount while muttering about a new Northern Ireland and the return of normal politics, hold on a moment.
It is sectarian in terms of the unionists trying to take votes off each other, and the nationalists trying to take votes off each other.
Sinn Féin will not capture many disgruntled DUP or UUP voters. Any first preference votes they gain will be at the expense of the SDLP and vice versa. No UUP voters will switch to Sinn Féin, nor will any gravitate that way from the DUP.
So it is a sectarian slugging match waged on each side of the tribal fence, which leaves the Alliance Party caught in the middle as usual...