Monday, 6 March 2017

Desperately Clinging On

Politics in Northern Ireland (NI) is very different from the rest of the UK, but even so it's hard to see how the leader of the DUP, Arlene Foster, can stay on after a disastrous election result which saw the DUP lose 10 seats and the combined unionist parties losing their overall majority in the NI Legislative Assembly for the first time.

No doubt much of the damage was caused by Arlene Foster's lack of oversight in the 'cash for ash' scandal which cost the taxpayer an estimated £500 million - only to be followed by the DUP's backing for Brexit which looks likely to hit North Ireland's economy very hard.

Read Henry McDonald's report via the link below to The Observer.

Northern Ireland election: DUP's Arlene Foster ‘to stay as first minister’

Democratic Unionists back embattled leader despite losses to Sinn Féin as parties prepare to negotiate new power-sharing government in Stormont


The Democratic Unionist party leader, Arlene Foster, hearing the results on election night. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

By Henry McDonald - The Observer

The embattled leader of the Democratic Unionists in Northern Ireland, Arlene Foster, will remain in her post despite her party losing 10 seats in Thursday’s election to the devolved assembly in Belfast, one of her MPs has said.

Jeffrey Donaldson insisted that instead of seeking her resignation the focus should be “on Arlene and the party getting a government up and running again at Stormont”.

Sinn Féin is now only one seat behind the DUP after a bruising and divisive election caused by Foster’s refusal to temporarily stand down as Northern Ireland’s first minister following a botched green energy scheme scandal which has the potential of costing taxpayers £500,000.

Gerry Adams, Sinn Féin’s president, said late on Saturday that the election result, which saw his party move up to 27 seats, showed “the notion of a perpetual unionist majority has been demolished” in Northern Ireland. Speaking earlier in West Belfast, Adams described Sinn Féin’s performance as a “watershed moment.”

The DUP remain the largest party in the new assembly, with Donaldson stressing that Foster would still be their nominee as first minister if and when a power-sharing government is restored.

Donaldson said: “I am not aware of any election in the past where the leader of the largest party resigns because they have won the election.

“We need to learn the lesson and understand what people were saying in this election and what the key messages are. We have been given the responsibility as the main party to take the lead at Stormont and that is what we intend to do, so we are not going to get bogged down on what some people want to focus on, which is personalities.”

The election results mean the DUP and Sinn Féin will once again lead the negotiations aimed at creating a new power-sharing government in Belfast when they take place on Monday. However, the prospect of the parties reaching agreement in the three-week timeframe imposed by the Northern Ireland secretary, James Brokenshire, appears remote.

If that deadline passes, the government would be obliged to call yet another snap election, but it may instead opt to put Stormont in cold storage and reintroduce direct rule.

Before the negotiations start on Monday the Irish government has been contacting all of the parties over the weekend to persuade them to reach a deal.