Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Parties lashing out to blow off steam

Declan Kearney, chairman of Sinn Fein, did not mince his words when he launched a verbal attack on the DUP - his party's main partners in the power-sharing administration at Stormont - accusing it of living in a time warp and, by implication, of showing a lack of respect towards nationalists.

Previously, DUP leader Peter Robinson had angered republicans by claiming that Sinn Fein is paralysed by fear of the SDLP preventing it from making hard decisions in government.

The language of this verbal sniping is stronger than the snide remarks which sometimes flow between the province's two largest parties and shows quite a tension in their relationship. Perhaps Mr Kearney was merely letting off steam - using the occasion as a safety valve - because the parties had resisted too many criticisms of each other during a reasonably contentious marching season. They had plenty of opportunities to lash out, but sensibly didn't. Maybe both feel they now have to show their credentials to restless supporters.

However, Mr Kearney - who suggested that Mr Robinson should start doing grown-up politics - could have seen his words rebound very quickly. The First Minister was very quick to express his sorrow yesterday at the death of a young woman soldier from Northern Ireland who was shot in Afghanistan, but it was noticeable that this was not a joint statement with the Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, who took some hours to make his comments.

Whatever Mr McGuinness' feelings on the British Army or the war in Afghanistan, as Deputy First Minister his role is greater than mere party politics.

He spoke out strongly and courageously when police officers here were killed in recent years and he should have commented earlier on the death of this young soldier. But the fact that he eventually did give his sympathies, and his revelation that he has met Orangemen to discuss recent parading issues, shows that progress is being made and that our politicians are able to adopt a mature approach.

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