Posted By: March 09, 2017
“The DUP leader, who has badly misread the political crisis from early December until now, assisted republicans’ electoral success with her unbending, uncompromising and arrogant attitude. …
For the first time since the creation of a state purposely engineered to keep it within the British empire, Unionists had no clear majority at Stormont.“
Líofa and crocodiles have changed course of history
We were told it was the election no-one wanted, but by early on Friday it was looking very much like a people’s revolution, with the highest voter turn out since the Good Friday Agreement.
The people were angry – angry for all manner of reasons – and whereas in Northern Ireland’s past that anger would have spilled out onto the streets, in this case it manifested itself at the ballot box.
Voters were enthused and motivated, young people with no interest in politics had registered to vote, older people who had become apathetic in a post peace groundhog day electoral cycle, got out and exercised their democratic right.
As both a citizen and an observer, reporting from the Belfast count felt unlike any election I’d reported on previously.
It was a front row seat to an unfolding historic event and one that would shape the lives of our children in years to come.
Sinn Féin played a blinder, they tapped into a dormant nationalist vote and turned Arlene Foster’s crocodile comments into an election strategy.
The DUP leader, who has badly misread the political crisis from early December until now, assisted republicans’ electoral success with her unbending, uncompromising and arrogant attitude.
On Saturday after just a few hours sleep I woke up to the realization that the Northern Ireland I had been born into had changed beyond recognition.
For the first time since the creation of a state purposely engineered to keep it within the British empire, Unionists had no clear majority at Stormont.
The two largest parties, Sinn Féin and the DUP, have just one seat and 1,200 votes separating them.
We’ve had almost a week now for that realization to bed in.
Arlene Foster in typical Arlene Foster style remains in denial about the crisis facing Unionism.
This should be a time for internal Unionist reflection not illogical grandstanding.
Her position is only secured by the fact there is no obvious successor to replace her at Stormont.
Unionist resistance to the word ‘equality’ is at times understandable. Gerry Adams and Trojan Horse comments still ring loudly in their ears.
But they need to get past that perception if devolution is ever to work.
Just as the civil rights movement began as a non-sectarian fight for the working class, so too must Unionism embrace the idea of equality for all.
For it is only when they do this that the Union – the thing they hold over and above all else – will be safe.
It is no accident that the Alliance Party’s Naomi Long topped the poll in east Belfast, that once impregnable bastion of Unionism.
A likeable and impressive party leader, she best represents the views of the young and moderate branch of Unionism who care more about jobs and education that what days a flag can be hoisted above a building.
Likewise the success of the Green Party’s Claire Bailey in south Belfast at the expense of DUP poster girl Emma Little Pengelly shows a growing progressive and moderate middle ground.
A growing number of young people are no longer content to vote along the same lines as their parents and are embracing progressive politics, with social issues such as same-sex marriage and changes to abortion legislation all very much on their radar.
In areas considered to be hard-line nationalist or republican the drop in the voter turnout over the past three years could be in part attributed to an apathy and contentment that progression was happening, albeit at a snail’s pace.
And then we had the most sectarian and divisive election campaign in a decade and things changed.
Arlene Foster must now wonder, had she stepped aside for three weeks at Christmas to allow an investigation into RHI would the Union be on a better footing?
Had DUP minister Paul Given not been so mean-spirited as to remove a £50,000 bursary from the Líofa Gaeltacht scheme [teaching fluency in the Irish language] would that Nationalist revolution have been staved off for another generation.
Instead in the mouth of Brexit, when the future of the Border was already on the agenda, we have a reawakened discussion on a Border poll.
Can you imagine the future of Northern Ireland as a part of the UK in jeopardy, not because of an IRA bombing campaign but because of £50,000 and a comedy crocodile outfit.
These are historic times indeed.