Belfast Telegraph

Friday 31 October 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

We need the first ministers to lead

The memorial to the IRA men who were killed by their own bomb. The memorial is three miles from Castlederg just over the border. Pic Martin McKeown
The memorial to the IRA men who were killed by their own bomb. The memorial is three miles from Castlederg just over the border. Pic Martin McKeown

This is a moment when a joint lead from Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness is needed. It is their job to use their massive mandates and authority to smooth out the remainder of the marching season, starting with Castlederg.

Instead, as the tension escalates, we are seeing Theresa Villiers, the Secretary of State, returning from England to try to get a handle on things.

This unelected direct ruler with less than a year's experience in the province is leaving her grieving mother to try to provide a lead.

That is what Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness were elected to do and their failure to step forward undermines their authority.

They are behaving like opposition politicians who play to their own parties, not like a Government that must bite the bullet on hard decisions.

Last week they gave separate Press interviews at the opening of the World Police and Fire Games. Mr Robinson lambasted the Castlederg republican parade while Mr McGuinness tried to ignore him. You would not think they were partners in Government.

The political pace is often set by politicians lower down the pecking order, councillors and MLAs who do not carry the full responsibilities of leadership. They are content to score points without reaching solution.

History won't judge Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness on foreign trips, photocalls, or even election results. They will be judged primarily on their skills as custodians of the peace process. Each needs the other's support to succeed.

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