15 March 2007 Edition

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The Mitchel McLaughlin Column

Decision of Electorate must be respected

The results of the Northern election once more showed an overwhelming endorsement for continued political and social change.
Nobody can deny that the DUP received an exceptional endorsement by its electorate and that mandate must be respected. But the DUP must also recognise that 70% of the electorate voted for representatives committed to the restitution of the Political Institutions. They should also consider the fact that those voters who oppose power sharing had the opportunity to vote for candidates who stood on a platform of resistance to sharing power. These candidates received a derisory vote from an electorate demanding that local politicians take charge. Implicit in the unionist electorate’s rejection of the anti-power sharing candidates is a message to the DUP to form an Executive by the 26 March.
The electorate similarly rejected the objectives of those republicans who stood against the Sinn Féin strategy. Hopefully they will now accept the verdict of the electorate by adopting a supportive role and help map out the road to the republic through peaceful and democratic means.
But there is a third group intent on bolstering the rejectionists. They make up that section of the media who are consumed with an anti-republican bias and will uncritically adopt a line of questioning conducive to the no change under any circumstances brigade.
This can be seen in the present attempts to get Sinn Féin representatives to answer all permutations of rhetorical questions about support for policing. Implying, a la the DUP mantra, that Sinn Féin must give ‘uncritical or unconditional’ support to the PSNI. So let’s be clear, Sinn Féin will give our unambiguous support to accountable policing and ‘the rule of law’ and we will criticise bad policing and bad laws where we feel it necessary.  
Neither the DUP nor its elements in the media are in any position to lecture Sinn Féin on support for policing or the rule of law. When was the last time the media put this same question to the DUP? Was it not Ian Paisley during the Drumcree crisis who warned the police not to come knocking at his door if they were being burned out of their homes? Was that ‘unconditional’ support for policing? Was it not the DUP’s Jimmy Spratt who advised PSNI officers not to co-operate with the Police Ombudsman’s inquiry into collusion? Was that an example of ‘unconditional’ support for the rule of law? Was it not unionists sitting on DPP’s who walked out because of how the PSNI handled loyalist violence in west Belfast in 2005? Was it not Ian Paisley Junior who voiced his public outrage at the PSNI treatment of a Belfast estate agent in August 2006? DUP support for Law and Order was always conditional on whether its application coincided with the DUP agenda.  It’s time for the DUP and its friends in the media to give ‘wholehearted’ support for the process of political and social change that the electorate has voted for.

An Phoblacht
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