DESPITE Cardinal Cahal Daly’s opposition to IRA violence and the tributes paid by unionist politicians and Protestant church leaders, at the time of writing, First Minister Peter Robinson has said nothing about the Catholic leader’s death on Thursday.
Perhaps Robinson will speak soon – although by then his sympathies are not likely to be seen as particularly heartfelt. Maybe he has his reasons, what with his wife’s woes, but not to issue a simple statement seems unbelievably petty on the face of it. After all, Robinson was able to put out a hefty new year message; it would have been easy to slip a line of acknowledgment into the robotic prose of his emotionless missive. Indeed, while Iris’s political opponents have rushed to show support for her at a difficult time, the same cannot be said for her husband and his lack of empathy (or any reaction) to the loss felt by many Catholics.
By contrast, junior DUP minister Jeffrey Donaldson recently attended the funeral of SDLP founding member, Councillor Peter O’Hagan. One wonders if the uncharitable response in some Orange quarters to Donaldson paying his respects had some bearing on Robinson’s decision to stay silent. Maybe Robinson recalls how some in the Orange pounced on his predecessor, David Trimble, when he attended the funeral mass for children killed in the Omagh bomb.
Even so, issuing a mere statement of condolence – as DUP minister Arlene Foster eventually did – is a far cry from “Popish worship”. I guess we wait and see. Perhaps he will turn up at Daly’s funeral and shock us all. But the unstatesmanlike lack of a response thus far does indicate a wider problem with Robinson’s leadership; he has little interest in representing Catholics, despite being supposed to be leading the whole of Northern Ireland.