Important perspective from Tom Kelly in the Irish News yesterday, as the sectarian tensions are racked up by the big two (or the old firm as we might call them?)…
As embarrassing as the RHI scheme is from a governance point of view, that it happened is normal within administrations which get lazy, arrogant and complacent.
Following the assembly elections in May 2016, both the DUP and Sinn Féin felt they were unassailable from a political point of view. The opposition had failed to mobilise the public’s imagination.
Unfortunately, both parties also seemed to think they should be unaccountable too.
The Opposition parties, the UUP and SDLP, along with Alliance, initially wobbled but soon started to land a few body blows. The two main parties were sneering of their efforts and the DUP revelled in belittling and mocking them at every opportunity.
But, he notes:
Sinn Féin always seemed slightly more ill at ease without the cover of the SDLP and Alliance. Implementing cuts in health, education and social services and raising income from unpopular traffic measures are not exactly the type of populist polices that Sinn Féin are used to.
Ironically from May 2016 to November 2016, the first and deputy first ministers waxed lyrical about their shared objectives and their close personal relationships. No talk then about ten years of gradual erosion of respect for the equality agenda or the Irish identity.
Certainly, to some commentators there seemed no slight or humiliation that Sinn Féin wouldn’t accept to hold onto the offices of government. ‘Marlene’ seemed like marital bliss, albeit a one-sided relationship.
Even the early revelations about the RHI scheme didn’t seem to upset the loved-up Stormont couple or their closest family and friends.
Sinn Féin’s faux outrage has been a long time coming and it’s not hugely convincing.
Just why did they stay in an executive for ten years that wasn’t delivering to their community? Why were they still lauding that same executive that was slighting nationalism a mere six weeks ago?
The DUP is now trying desperately to portray the forthcoming election as a challenge to unionism but with Foster and McGuinness having played the globe trotting double act as Phileas Fogg and Passepartout, Sinn Féin makes for a poor bogey man.