Time for change

Posted By: September 18, 2018

Distributed to U.S. Congress by Irish National Caucus
“Members of Congress and their Staff should find this Editorial from the Irish News of Belfast illuminating. Even the most ardent DUP supporter would find it hard to quibble with it.”—Fr. Sean McManus

Irish News Editorial. Belfast. Monday, September 17, 2018.

It is increasingly difficult to see how our power-sharing executive can return before the DUP, which remains marginally the largest Stormont grouping, undergoes a period of profound and fundamental reform.

All the main parties in the suspended assembly face issues which need to be addressed to a greater or lesser degree, but it is the DUP which has been sharply exposed as a party which is dysfunctional on a range of fronts.

While a series of previous scandals, including the Red Sky debacle and the so far unresolved National Asset Management Agency (Nama) saga, caused major damage to the party’s reputation, the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) Inquiry has taken matters to an entirely different level.

Witnesses are still appearing, and the final report from Sir. Patrick Coghlin may not be delivered until well into 2019, but no one can doubt that the evidence to date has been entirely devastating for everyone connected with the DUP.

Senior figures have turned on each other publicly; extraordinary revelations have steadily emerged about not only the DUP’s highly unusual internal processes,  but its basic competency and, most significantly of all, concerns about financial malpractice are advancing with every day that passes.

It is an unedifying spectacle, which is being played out daily as alarm over the well-documented conduct of Ian Paisley, an MP inextricably linked to the wider image of the DUP, reaches a decisive stage.

If the implications for our devolved structures were not disturbing enough, the British prime minister Theresa May has somehow managed to leave the overall survival of her government under the control of the DUP’s Westminster contingent which may or may not include the same, Mr. Paisley.

As the Brexit crisis deepens, the sense is growing that circumstances are firmly falling into place which will inevitably lead to the final break-up of the constitutional structures to which Mrs. May claims she is committed.

It is important to note that it is not only observers from nationalist or non-aligned backgrounds who have concluded that we are going through a defining chapter in our history since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

The Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann, reflecting on recent developments, said at the end of last week that confidence in politics here had “completely collapsed” and it would be very difficult to disagree with his assessment.

If the DUP can review its position on many key questions which involve integrity, human rights and the aspirations of what has become the non-unionist majority, progress has always been possible.

However, the firm indications are that it is a party which is largely incapable of embracing change.