Belfast Telegraph

Parties show real politics is possible

Editor's Viewpoint

After Brexit and Trump's triumph in the US Presidential election we should not be surprised at any political developments, but occasionally they produce a novel twist.

Take two events yesterday, both of which involved the DUP. The party, which won a £1bn windfall for Northern Ireland after agreeing to prop up Theresa May's government, last night found itself at loggerheads with the Tories.

The DUP had made it clear that it would vote against the continuation of a pay cap for public sector workers, especially those in the health service, and that forced the government into an embarrassing climbdown.

Although the Tories' policy will not have to change as a result of events at Westminster - no vote was taken on an Opposition motion on the issue - the DUP's actions will not go down well in the Tory heartlands, where suspicions on the confidence and supply arrangement with the Northern Ireland MPs have always been near the surface.

But the DUP had made it clear that public sector pay was a red line issue and it has stood by its vow to vote issue by issue, even while supporting the Tories overall. That is a principled stand to take.

The irony in yesterday's events came in a joint letter from DUP leader Arlene Foster and Sinn Fein's northern leader Michelle O'Neill to US Vice President Mike Pence over the threat to jobs at Bombardier.

Here were two leaders who have been at loggerheads for months over the restoration of devolution at Stormont, with several caustic exchanges. Yet they were prepared to put that behind them to present a united front on an important issue.

If a US investigation upholds claims that Bombardier received subsidies from the Canadian and British governments in the development of its C-Series aircraft which an American airline has agreed to buy it could be disastrous for the planemaker and its Northern Ireland operation, which is vital to the local economy.

The DUP and Sinn Fein recognise that this is an issue of mutual concern and have acted promptly to urge the Vice President to keep Bombardier's importance to the province and the peace process in mind.

That is the sort of issue which the public wishes the two parties would concentrate on more at a time when health, education and infrastructure are facing economic pressures due to the inter-party squabbling.

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