O’Neill’s red line means direct rule looks certain

Posted By: February 18, 2017

Newton Emerson.Irish News.Belfast. Saturday, February 18, 2017

Remarks by Mike Nesbitt about cross-community voting distracted from what should have been the major story of the week. Northern Sinn Féin leader Michelle O’Neill has said her party will not return to the executive with Arlene Foster as first or deputy first minister until the DUP leader has been cleared by the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) inquiry. O’Neill added this was a red line issue – something Sinn Féin will not say about anything else. Naturally, Foster will not stand aside and the DUP cannot now ditch her, for fear of seeming to act at Sinn Féin’s behest. So at least six months of limbo beckons, making some form of direct rule inevitable. The NIO is still denying this but I understand draft bills have been prepared for a speedy intervention. The DUP will be enraged but almost half of its voters would prefer direct rule to continuing devolution, according to a poll three weeks ago. In fact, threatening unionists with direct rule is like threatening children with ice cream. While Sinn Féin is obviously playing a bigger game, is Gerry the Genius sure he has thought all this through?