DUP must stand up and silence the critics
Politics can be a dirty business. Just ask Jeremy Corbyn, who was demonised during the General Election campaign. And now Arlene Foster and the DUP are finding themselves in the firing line as they prepare to work out their relationship with Theresa May to enable her to form a new government.
It is, of course, right that a party which finds itself in the pivotal position of kingmaker should be subjected to scrutiny. That is likely to be all the more intense, given that the majority of people in other regions of the UK will have only the sketchiest of knowledge about the DUP.
But this scrutiny and comment has crossed the line on too many occasions since the weekend. There are always trolls spouting their vitriol on social media on any range of subjects, but they are usually easily recognised by the sheer malice of their messages and being removed from reality.
However, when respected commentators such as Channel 4 anchor Jon Snow tweet wrong information about the DUP demanding an end to the ban on 'sectarian' marches, photoshopped images of the party's logo alongside those of terrorist organisations in a fake mural, or sectarian lyrics added to real footage of the party's AGM are posted online, then the spectre of fake news really does raise its head.
It has to be remembered that the party has just won the largest number of Westminster seats in its history and obtained the votes of almost 300,000 people. By any measure, that was a hugely significant performance and to attempt to portray the party as some sort of backward fringe group - or even worse - is not only to besmirch it but also all those people who voted for it.
As already noted, part of this negative - even deliberately mischievous - publicity is due to ignorance. Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK is a place apart. It has also to be conceded that comments or actions by some DUP members in the past - and just recently the posting of images by a DUP councillor of a UVF flag flying outside Number 10 Downing Street, for which he has apologised - do not do the party justice. The party is used to defending itself from critics, but when the criticism is not based on fact, then the party is right to call foul.
What people here really want is for the DUP to use its unparalleled leverage to better life for everyone in the province.
That will be its best answer to its critics and show that it is a party that can deliver.