Leaders should build bridges

Posted By: January 05, 2017

Irish News Editorial. Belfast. Thursday, January 4, 2017

Arlene Foster’s most recent interviews have confirmed her approach that the best form of defense is attacking. However, by using this tactic she has put the institutions in greater peril.

Lambasting her Sinn Féin partners in government may go down well with the DUP grassroots, but it does nothing for the promotion of mutual respect and the spirit of cooperation which is essential to making power-sharing work.

Certainly, the tone of her comments, directly referencing Martin McGuinness’s ill health and speculating about an internal Sinn Féin power struggle, was the act of someone trying to burn bridges rather than build them.

With Mr. McGuinness sticking to his position that the First Minister must step aside, the joint leaders of the government in Northern Ireland are on a collision course that could spell the end for this administration.

Mrs. Foster may be calculating that Sinn Féin does not want an election while sending out the message that she is ready for the fight.

But as we have said before, an election will not solve the problem of RHI and reveal the full truth about this fiasco.

And it will do nothing to improve the working relationship between the DUP and Sinn Féin, who are likely to be returned as the biggest parties.

As well as her trenchant criticism of political opponents, Mrs. Foster’s interviews were notable for her claim that misogynism is behind calls for her to stand down.

This has caused some surprise especially given the DUP’s track record on displaying sexist attitudes.

Of course, vicious and nasty abuse on social media is always unacceptable and an unwelcome aspect of public life these days.

But any serious criticism of Mrs. Foster has been rightly focused on her handling of RHI, not her gender.

The assertion that she is working on a plan that will eliminate any future overspend on the Renewable Heat Incentive will also be treated with a degree of skepticism.

After the complete mishandling of this issue, the public will need some convincing.