Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Cold war at heart of Stormont is corroding its credibility

Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson appear smiling and positive, as is their duty, when they go abroad to seek investment or meet foreign visitors – but the same standard of civility is not maintained at home
Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson appear smiling and positive, as is their duty, when they go abroad to seek investment or meet foreign visitors – but the same standard of civility is not maintained at home
Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson pictured on a visit to a call centre last year
Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson pictured on a visit to a call centre last year

Martin McGuinness gave a controversial interview but many will feel he is right on the money when he described the public image of the Executive and Assembly as an embarrassment.

Politicians are fond of saying that the media is negative about their achievements, and that our Executive is seen as an example throughout the world.

Mr McGuinness and Mr Robinson appear smiling and positive, as is their duty, when they go abroad to seek investment or meet foreign visitors – but the same standard of civility is not maintained at home.

The show of bonhomie is often little more than a front, Mr McGuinness has revealed.

Back in the corridors of Stormont, he claims – and many in the DUP have confirmed – that most DUP MLAs won't so much as pass the time of day with their Sinn Fein opposite numbers. The fact that relations have plummeted so low, or rather remained there, sets a poor example for society.

It is all very well for DUP members to argue that many Sinn Fein politicians, like Mr McGuinness himself, have been members or supporters of the IRA. That is an indisputable fact. But it is also indisputable that the two parties agreed to share power at St Andrews and are lavishly funded to do so.

The cold war at the heart of Government is bound to lead to stasis and blocking tactics instead of the spirit of give and take needed in a coalition. Instead of any political horse trading, the parties just block each other where they can.

Jim Allister, the TUV leader who wants to bring the Executive down, agreed with Mr McGuinness for once. He claimed that the Executive "has failed to deliver for the people of Northern Ireland whether unionist or nationalist" and pointed to the dearth of business on its order paper.

Basil McCrea of NI21 said: "People should be under no illusion, Sinn Fein and the DUP are happier playing the game of tribal politics than genuinely seeking to make Northern Ireland work."

That is a corrosive accusation, but it is what many voters and non-voters believe. The two parties need to dispel it if they are to retain their credibility and to give us the sort of sure-footed Government we need.

Further reading

Martin McGuinness attack on DUP 'part of Sinn Fein leadership battle' 

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