26 November 2009 Edition
The Mitchel McLaughlin Column
After the DUP conference...
THE European election results delivered a severe reality check to the DUP. It’s time that Peter Robinson accepted the message that the electorate sent to him – prevarication and weak leadership does not build confidence nor does it convince rejectionists that their agenda is unattainable. But unless Mr Robinson begins to implement the commitments entered into in negotiations with the two governments and the other parties he will become more and more indistinguishable from the rejectionist Jim Allister and his Traditional Unionist Voice and find himself leading another minority unionist party.
There has been much media comment and analysis focused on the unachievable agenda of rejectionists – both unionist and republican.
In the unionist camp, it is the defeated TUV which is being portrayed as an inflated threat to the political agenda while republican micro groups are elevated in the media to an exaggerated level of threat to the Peace Process.
It is time for political leadership from all pro-Agreement parties to act decisively to disavow rejectionists – of whatever hue – of the notion that they can destabilise the institutions. This requires genuine partnership government being seen to deliver good government on the basis of equality.
The British Government must act along with the Irish Government in spelling out the reality to the rejectionists.
The DUP may be the largest party presently representing the majority unionist bloc by virtue of the last Assembly elections but Peter Robinson’s prevarication and failure of leadership has reduced that representation to just 18% of the electorate. So what does he mean by ‘community confidence’? Is it the confidence of the 18% he represents or is it the whole community in the North?
Participation in government brings responsibility to deliver for the whole community, not just to sectors of self-interest. The DUP must remember that when delivering for their constituents they must be meticulously careful that they don’t discriminate against the rest of the people.
During the coming months it will become apparent exactly what DUP intentions are and the two governments must respond accordingly. Sinn Féin will seek a more proactive role from Dublin in the absence of full implementation of agreements by the DUP.
If, on the other hand, the DUP shows a willingness to engage with the rest of the participants, then Sinn Féin – and I am sure the rest of the parties – will be more than happy to work with them in delivering the full Programme for Government. But if it decides to proceed in a manner that is intended to damage or destroy the Agreement then there must be no ambiguity in the actions of the governments or the pro-Agreement parties in their combined opposition.
They should be left in no doubt that long-term procrastination is not a soft option.