Saturday, 7 November 2015

Politics and Dinosaurs (19/09/15)

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Politics in Northern Ireland is difficult enough as it is without people in positions of leadership and responsibility calling their rivals 'renegades' and 'rogues'.

I have no problem with a bit of good old-fashioned political knockabout or even a well aimed joke at the other side's expense, but challenging a person's integrity and calling them names like 'nazis' or 'fascists' is a sign of complete desperation, of an argument lost. 

The problem for Northern Ireland's loyalist community is that they need to learn to build a peace with their republican neighbours in a way that increases mutual trust and respect. 

The resignation of Peter Robinson and other DUP ministers seems designed to bring about another period of direct rule from Westminster which is completely cynical if you ask me, because why should London based politicians make tough decisions on behalf of MLAs in Belfast.

It's completely mad and about as grown up as the Scottish Parliament standing down and inviting Westminster to start running the show again.     

Stormont crisis: Acting NI leader Arlene Foster criticised for 'rogue ministers' remark

The DUP's Arlene Foster

Northern Ireland's acting first minister has said she will protect Stormont from what she called "rogue" republican and nationalist ministers.

Arlene Foster is leading the Northern Ireland Assembly after Democratic Unionist Party leader Peter Robinson stepped aside over a political crisis.

She is now the only DUP minister left in Stormont's Executive after a crisis sparked by an ex-IRA man's murder.

But Sinn Féin criticised her comments as a "bigoted" throwback to the past.

The crisis has escalated following the murder of ex-IRA man Kevin McGuigan in Belfast last month and a police assessment that former IRA members may have been involved in the killing.

Mrs Foster said Mr Robinson's move and the resignations of three other DUP ministers was aimed at creating "time and space" for new political talks on the way forward for Northern Ireland's devolved political institutions.

Speaking on the BBC's The View programme, Mrs Foster said she has stayed on the executive in order to act as a "gatekeeper".

"I have been placed there as a gatekeeper to make sure that Sinn Féin and the SDLP ministers don't take actions that will damage Northern Ireland and principally, let's be honest, that damage the unionist community."

She added: "If anybody knows me and indeed knows the Democratic Unionist Party they know that I'm not going to put at risk to the people of Northern Ireland the possibility that rogue Sinn Féin or renegade SDLP ministers are going to take decisions that will harm the community in Northern Ireland."

However, speaking on the same programme, Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly said her comments were a "throwback" to the past and displayed a "very bigoted view of what the institutions are about".

"To make this attack on nationalism - because it wasn't just republicanism but on nationalism - and call ministers 'rogue ministers' is a complete nonsense," Mr Kelly said.

"She actually said that her job was - which by the way it isn't - her job was to protect unionism. Her job as a minister is actually to serve all the people."

Earlier on Thursday, the British and Irish governments expressed concern over the latest developments and called for further talks between Stormont's five main parties.

The DUP had asked Westminster to pass emergency legislation to suspend the assembly but both Prime Minister David Cameron and Secretary of State Theresa Villiers said they did not think suspension was the right action to take.

The DUP then tried to secure an adjournment of the assembly, but the motion was defeated when Sinn Féin, the Ulster Unionists and the Social Democratic and Labour Party voted against it.

The US government also called for more talks to resolve the crisis, in a statement released through former senator Gary Hart.

Mr Hart acted as a US envoy during last December's Stormont House Agreement negotiations.

He said: "Northern Ireland's achievements are the result of dialogue and responsible leadership; now is the time to re-energise the parties' commitment to implementing the Stormont House Agreement and addressing remnant paramilitary activity."

"The United States remains actively engaged and will continue to support political progress."