“a strategy which now views the very presence of devolved government in Northern Ireland as a bargaining chip with the Government and with the DUP.”

In the News Letter, Sam McBride provides an astute assessment of the “profound consequences” of Sinn Féin’s decision to resign Martin McGuinness from the Northern Ireland Executive Office.  From the News Letter article

 

Mr Adams now appears to envisage yet another round of ‘crisis talks’ in Belfast in attempt to extract further concessions from the DUP and the Government, which Sinn Fein can then sell to its supporters in order to justify its continued position in a power-sharing arrangement with a party whose policies are far more right wing and far more unionist than those of Sinn Fein.

The price of power is compromise, and, having compromised on its goal of a united Ireland, Sinn Fein is struggling to sell further concessions to its supporters.

There is a second profound consequence of Sinn Fein’s actions yesterday.

Mr McGuinness’s message yesterday could be crudely summed up as “the DUP are bigots” and he cited the party’s approach in areas as diverse as gay rights and the Irish language as evidence.

That is starkly at variance with what Mr McGuinness has been telling the public for more than a year since the (now seemingly inaptly named) Fresh Start Agreement – even though the DUP’s position on those issues has not changed.

Little more than a year ago, Mr McGuinness said: “Our political institutions are the best way forward. The First Minister and I are absolutely united on this.”

And since the election the DUP and Sinn Fein have been working together in unrivalled harmony, even joining forces in the Assembly to lampoon the SDLP and UUP.

Their excuse that it was the smaller parties who were responsible for past Executives’ failures was removed in May with the creation of an Official Opposition and the Executive’s determination to present a united front was evident in the hiring of the respected journalist David Gordon as spokesman for their joint message.

In an article which it is understood was drafted by Mr Gordon, the ministers said: “We made promises to voters that we will keep – taking on the heavy responsibilities that come with elected office, governing in their best interests, tackling head-on the tough decisions.”

Those “promises” have been shredded a matter of weeks later, as has another pledge in the same article that they would not be “filling the airwaves with endless squabbles, making the Assembly a by-word for division”.

That united front went on despite Sinn Fein having known the brutal scale of the RHI losses for more than a year. It continued into what is described as a cordial Executive meeting on December 14 – a week after the BBC Spotlight programme.

It therefore appears that Sinn Fein’s decision has been taken in haste in a belated attempt to placate a nationalist electorate which believes that Sinn Fein either has been too soft in government.

And, through largely unrelated personal circumstances, the architect of that calculatedly temperate approach to the DUP may never again return to Stormont Castle.

Read the whole thing.

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