“‘Marlene’ seemed like marital bliss, albeit a one-sided relationship…”

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.


  • T.E.Lawrence

    ‘Just why did they stay in an executive for ten years that wasn’t delivering to their community” ? You have just answered the question “it was certainly delivering to the chosen few of that community” ! #SIF

  • billodrees

    It delivered peace. It delivered an acceptable form of normality.
    Now we have leaders who grew up while peace was the norm.
    Those leaders will take us forward to a better place.

  • Nevin

    “But the reality about this debacle is far from tribal. It’s a monumental cock up at several levels of government from the ministerial team, to the civil service and to the oversight bodies. It’s about overwhelming levels of incompetence and it would seem in part a story about greed.” .. Tom Kelly

    Cock-ups, large and small, have not been limited to the DUP and SF, nor to Stormont HQ. The smaller parties in government haven’t fared too well either and victims of bumbling bureaucracy were probably more likely to turn to DUP and SF representatives for alleviation than to those of the smaller government parties.

  • ted hagan

    Surely the dam burst among the Sinn Fein grassroots when they saw the initial feeble response from its Assembly party members to to the RHI scandal and the ensuing backlash resulted in a dramatic change of tack after what was seen as years of McGuinness appeasement. I don’t know, but I’m sure there were a few glad to see the back of Martin. I’m only surmising though.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    But will those leaders get the votes necessary to make them powerful through representation? What interests me is a newish landscape has been emerging for some time, nonetheless how will voting be influenced or even changed by new information known to the electorate? Will perspectives be changed sufficiently to bring about the necessary change?

  • billodrees

    Contexts are changing rapidly. Perspectives will evolve with the changing landscapes.
    When Scotland leaves the UK many “Ulster Scots” will have their perspectives challenged. The newer generation will see their parents’ previous strong sense of identity wobble.
    When the Republic takes on an altered role in the EU due to England’s exit the context of the partitioned Island of Ireland will be challenged.
    I can’t see Northern Ireland’s link to London survive:
    1) Scotland’s exit from the UK;
    2) England/wales Brexit and
    3) an Ireland with a tighter European identity and a looser link with London.

    I think Northern Ireland’s break with England will be be driven by these new contexts.

  • mickfealty

    Many of the foregoing predictions depend on whether or not and how Brexit works out for the UK. On the geopolitical level, it seems to me that May (with the largely tacit support of the DUP) will use Brexit to isolate the Scots from the nested sovereignty model offered by the EU.

    They’ve also simplified the UK’s relationship with the Republic making it closer via CTA, but largely outside the same EU model. This is really important for Republicans of all stripes to get their heads around.