Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Both leaders must unite on home front

The First Minister and Deputy First Minister are currently in Brazil on a trade mission, and they will move on to the United States in time for the St Patrick's Day festivities.

 On the face of it, this seems a good enough way for Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness to show a united front on their overseas mission on our behalf, and also to take a little sunshine break as well.

However, many people here are wondering why their joint public appearances have been so few since the latest round of troubles began during the Union flag protest.

There have been occasions in the recent past when they have been pictured together.

However, that image of togetherness has not been as strong as in some of the earlier crises.

Following the murders of Constable Stephen Carroll and also the shooting of the two young soldiers at Antrim, the First Minister and Deputy First Minister gave a strong public lead by roundly condemning the violence.

Such solidarity in public is important, but it has not been as apparent since early December and this has not gone unnoticed.

At a time when the rule of law has been under threat almost every night, many people were surprised at the lack of a joint public condemnation by Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness.

There is still a glaring gap in this aspect of their joint representation in Northern Ireland, and although their visit to Brazil and the USA is a long-scheduled engagement, it is taking place against a backdrop of sustained unrest at home.

This includes a planned mortar-bomb attack in Londonderry, which was foiled only by good police work, and this weekend the trouble has continued with the closure of the M5 for security reasons.

There are also forebodings in Belfast and elsewhere about the possible fall-out from this year's St Patrick's day celebrations.

Our senior ministers will no doubt do us proud far from home this week, but what we need is the same solid front being shown in public at home, and as soon as possible.

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