Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 22 November 2014

Queen reigns supreme in our poll

The Queen has long be applauded for her devotion to duty and her unstinting application to her work, even now at the age of 87. Even those who are not monarchists acknowledge that she carries out her role in an exemplary manner and it is, perhaps, no surprise that she comes out top of our poll which asked people in Northern Ireland to rate the performance of a number of civic leaders.

Her high-profile visits to Dublin and Belfast in recent years obviously has won over even a sizeable number of Catholics/nationalists, a response which would have been unlikely, at least, not so many years ago.

Disenchantment with politics and politicians was again evident in the poll with the Assembly getting a thumping thumbs-down and the First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness also getting a negative reaction, albeit on a lesser scale. Mr McGuinness fares the better of the two, possibly because he appears less confrontational in public and more reasoned in his utterances. He also appears to be more in favour with the working-class section of his support.

That is where there is a problem for Mr Robinson. As First Minister and party leader he has a delicate balancing act to perform. He is trying to broaden the appeal of his party – even speaking of the day when some Catholics may vote for the DUP – and to push forward a shared future agenda. But, the poll suggests, that may be at the expense of leaving the working-class unionist/loyalist constituency behind. While it would be wrong to exaggerate his dilemma, the poll is more than anecdotal evidence of his lack of connection with that constituency.

It might be tempting for Mr Robinson to try to reverse this disconnect, but, as his recent statement showed, he knows that his real ambition is to create a stable future for Northern Ireland, one with an improved economy and a greater sense of community across the divisions. He wins most approval from the middle classes for his current work, and this statesman-like approach is surely the proper way for him to continue.

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