The response yesterday from the First Minister Peter Robinson to the death of Cardinal Cahal Daly on New Year’s Eve was more than two days late, and the delay itself overshadowed the condolences when they eventually came.
Mr Robinson said that he had been “indisposed” due to family issues, and many people will fully understand the pressures in the light of Iris Robinson’s courageous statement about her depressive illness which has led to her early departure from public life.
However it is ungracious for the First Minister to criticise “a few elements in the Press and politics” for their “insensitivity and political baggage” in pointing out the absence of a statement on Cardinal Daly.
Nor was it sufficient enough for Mr Robinson to claim that he had not been asked by his office or his party to say something. It is remarkable that his officials did not advise him of the importance of doing so, in what has been a major public relations gaffe.
Mr Robinson ought to have known better. Leadership at his level requires the instinct to say the right thing at the right time, and this is something which he failed to do.
In the event, his statement about Cardinal Daly conveyed the respect with which this distinguished Prelate was held universally, and there is no doubt that the First Minister’s condolences were sincere. It is a pity that they were given so late.
Peter Robinson is learning the hard way that leadership is onerous, but he should stop blaming others for his shortcomings.
Our poll today shows that people want action at Stormont on policing and justice, and other matters, and the First Minister now has the opportunity to regain lost ground by showing that he can make politics work.