Full implications have caught up with Foster

Posted By: February 23, 2017

Brian Feeney. Irish News. Thursday, February 23, 2017

Monday was a first, not just for the DUP but for any party in the North. Normally, the launch of a party’s election manifesto is a bit of free publicity when the party’s policies make the headlines for at least one day.

Instead, the headlines were the press launch that never was. Arlene Foster was revealed at someone at the parlous intersection of panic and desperation.

Her self-declared “man-flu” didn’t stop her making a speech received with almost universal derision but did conveniently prevent her answering any questions. For some reason Depooty Dawds[Dodds] who hadn’t diagnosed himself with any debilitating illness couldn’t take questions either.

At last the full implications of RHI have caught up with Foster. People are now listing all the other scandals that are piled up at the door of the DUP. Red Sky, Nama, the Social Investment Fund money channeled to bodies linked to the UDA, finance to support Brexit, they were all initially batted aside as just mud thrown by Sinn Féin.

Then RHI burst on the scene tied down definitively as Foster’s responsibility. As revelation followed revelation even her own supporters began to give credence to the other scandals thinking there’s no smoke without fire because that’s certainly the case with her 24/7 boilers.

DUP supporters began to express outrage as accusations of cronyism, chicanery, preferential treatment, rumors of curious behavior by unelected special advisers overreaching themselves emerged given credence by senior civil servants. So it wasn’t just down to Sinn Féin throwing dirt.

Foster has been on the back foot since December and was clearly shocked when Martin McGuinness resigned. Typically, she contemptuously dismissed his threat accusing him of playing chicken, a serious mistake with McGuinness.

Her shock and lack of preparedness are obvious. The DUP, like all other parties cannot return with the same number of seats. It’s a simple matter of arithmetic because there are eighteen fewer seats to go around. Yet, Foster allowed all DUP MLAs to stand. That’s 37 candidates – too many – and too many using last May’s posters. So much for vote management.

The $64,000 question is, will 30 get back? Most pundits think the DUP should get 31 or 32 but if not, then Arlene won’t be able to use her pre-signed petitions of concern any more. That’s why she’s happy to abolish the procedure. That’s why she’s desperately banging the tribal drum in a most disgraceful fashion.

Foster’s line about Sinn Féin is not only disgraceful because it’s untrue but it’s also inherently absurd and furthermore exposes her real attitude to partnership. Even if Sinn Féin were to become the largest party, which they won’t and Foster knows it. Michelle O’Neill, who to Foster’s utter discredit, she tries to ignore, couldn’t do anything as First Minster unless the Deputy First Minister agreed. Unless, that is,  she were to try to behave like Foster,  and pretend she’s Prime Minister,  thereby subverting the very concept of partnership.

It’s impossible legally or any other way to “advance a Sinn Féin agenda” without agreement from Executive partners. That’s the way Stormont is set up and Foster knows it. So much for the integrity of the DUP campaign.

Essentially, it’s a false prospectus with no respect for her own voters because it assumes their ignorance and misleads with manufactured fears.

This is the pretty pass RHI has brought Foster to. It has sunk to this: Foster has opted for the most sectarian campaign for 30 years to save her own political skin. Not very edifying.