Today could not have turned out any bigger a mess for the incumbent DUP Leader and would-be First Minister.
If sources are to be believed the Fermanagh MLA was ready to sign off on a deal which would have seen 3 Bills introduced :
- An Irish Language Bill
- An Ulster Scots Bill
- A Joint Respect Bill
What has happened since the weekend to put the Stormont train off the rails? A DUP Group meeting on Monday morning, 3 days of wild exaggerations about what an Irish language Act would entail and an opposing statement from the leader of the Orange Order – among other things.
All was not well within Camp DUP come today. Brian Rowan on EamonMallie.com has outlined how a senior DUP politician contacted him this morning to outline how the talks were going nowhere:
On Wednesday morning, a senior DUP politician described these talks as “dead” – “totally dead”, he told me.
Hours later, he sent me a text – two words: “Told you”
Senior members of the DUP are now openly undermining their leader. This is something we have all suspected for some time but such a public slapdown as outlined by Tommie Gorman in his RTÉ report is quite extraordinary.
The other parties to the process will be asking themselves a number of questions tonight. One is whether or not there is any point in spending weeks and months making a deal with the current DUP leader if her MLAs or MPs are going to shoot down deals she agrees to in talks again and again.
What should worry us all is that it may be some time before we have a unionist leader that can carry a deal and restore the Assembly.
With the former First Minister’s appearance before the RHI Inquiry due in the coming weeks and the British Cabinet due to take a firm position on the future of the border post-Brexit it may be some time before politics stabilises again and a deal to restore the Assembly can be made.
The question has to be asked – will Arlene Foster still be party leader when that happens? After today it is certainly a little less likely.