DUP has yet to give an adequate explanation for the Papal snub

Posted By: August 31, 2018

DUP leader Arlene Foster hasn’t fully explained why her party didn’t send anybody to Papal reception.

John Manley. Irish News. Belfast.Friday, August 29, 2018

It’s important that people respect Arlene Foster’s decision not to attend Saturday’s civic reception for Pope Francis in Dublin Castle. Likewise, we must also acknowledge that there may be many valid reasons for the decision not to follow the example of the other Stormont parties and send somebody else in the absent leader’s place.

However, in order that the snub to the pontiff be as seen as in some way justified, it’s vital that context and rationale are provided by the DUP.

The opportunity for Mrs. Foster to explain why her party was out of step with its Stormont counterparts, including the Ulster Unionists, arose yesterday as she met the media for the first time since her party issued a statement on the Papal visit, 11 days previously.

It’s widely acknowledged that if the former first minister had a pre-arranged family holiday which coincided with Saturday’s reception, then it’s acceptable for her to decline the invite. The decision not to send any DUP representative requires more explanation – beyond stating that the invite was for her personally.

Although we know Mrs. Foster was holidaying in recent days; it could also be expected that the DUP leader and her advisers would have discussed the issue and sought to agree on a line that would shed some light on the decision. This appears not to have happened.

When asked to explain the rationale for the avoidance of the Pope, the former first minister was left wanting; her excuse feeble and far from definitive.

The Catholic Church no longer represents the antithesis of the DUP as it once did, while the two institutions have many shared views, most notably on same-sex marriage and abortion.

The DUP’s failure to explain its actions only raises more questions, and unless these are answered comprehensively, suspicions about the party’s motivations will linger and turn this poorly handled episode into drawn-out PR disaster.