Arlene Foster wraps the orange flag around herself

Posted By: March 10, 2016

Fear of Sinn Féin leads the DUP to suppress issues that would split other parties

Eamonn McCann. Irish Times. Thursday, March 10, 2016

 Sinn Féin could “take Northern Ireland” within weeks.
Thus First Minister Arlene Foster in her leader’s address to the DUP annual conference last weekend.
She was referring to Sinn Féin possibly emerging from the May 5th election as the largest party in the Assembly, putting Martin McGuinness in pole position to become First Minister.
“The next first minister will either be me or Martin McGuinness. It’s that simple. It is a choice between his vision of taking this province out of the United Kingdom and my vision to strengthen the union.”
All unionists should therefore come together to ward off the nightmare of a Bogside nationalist lording it over them even as he sets about crowbarring the North and the UK apart.
In fact, the political identity of the first minister has no bearing on the constitutional position.

Under the Belfast Agreement, Northern Ireland will remain within the UK until such times as a majority within the North decides otherwise – the unionist position since 1922, now formally accepted by all signatories to the agreement, including Sinn Féin and the SDLP.

On a day-to-day basis, sighed Foster, power sharing with Sinn Féin is no picnic. “But if you think it is difficult now, just imagine what it would be like with a Sinn Féin first minister…”

The truth is that, in terms of their remit and role, the First Minister and Deputy First Minister are co-joined equals.

Neither can make a move without the other’s say-so. McGuinness has, anyway, pledged that if his party comes out on top on May 5th, they will re-designate the two leaders as “Joint First Ministers.” On the face of it, then, nothing that Foster was warning about can come to pass.

Of course, symbolism matters. Whatever about the practical implications, if any, McGuinness becoming first minister might roughen the resentment of unionists who have never fully accepted power sharing.
Foster’s pitch to the unionist electorate was – “Put us in to keep themmuns out.”
All unionists should vote as one. Communal allegiance should trump all. Concerns about policy or the judgment of party leaders should be held in check.

Fr. Sean Mc Manus