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It's a DUP scandal but it's their partners Sinn Fein feeling the heat: Suzanne Breen


Martin McGuinness

Martin McGuinness


Martin McGuinness

It seems hugely unfair that the party responsible for the 'cash for ash' scandal isn't the one likely to pay the biggest political price for the debacle.

Sinn Fein's total failure thus far to challenge the DUP in any substantial way over the loss of up to £500 million in taxpayers' money is causing huge anger, even among normally loyal supporters in its heartlands.

The party, which is endlessly calling for public inquiries into all sorts of matters, won't demand one into the biggest financial scandal to ever hit Northern Ireland.

Or rather it did, and then it U-turned, blaming a "typo" for what had appeared in an An Phoblacht article by party chairman Declan Kearney. The "typo" line didn't wash with many. A cartoon circulating on social media shows a fleeing hen.

"Chicken Sinn Fein now running from public inquiry after DUP phone call", declares the caption.

While 'cash for ash' is a DUP scandal, Sinn Fein is under pressure because of its weak, wimpy response. This is the party which for decades ridiculed the SDLP as the 'Stoop Down Low Party' of forelock-tugging toadies.

Yet despite all its radical rhetoric, Sinn Fein has brought rollover republicanism to Stormont.

In the Easter Rising's centenary year of 2016, Pearse and Connolly must have been spinning in their graves.

Martin McGuiness (right) warned of "grave consequences" if Arlene Foster went ahead with her solo speech to the Assembly last month.

She did anyway and what happened? Nothing.

Sinn Fein wouldn't even support the Opposition parties' no confidence motion in her.

Had Mr McGuinness behaved in the same fashion, neither the DUP nor its voters would have tolerated it. To grassroots nationalists, Sinn Fein appears content to sit at the back of the bus.

Now 2017 presents the party with another opportunity to do what its supporters would see as the right thing.

The Ulster Unionists, SDLP, Alliance, TUV and People Before Profit can growl all they want at the DUP in Stormont, but only Sinn Fein has the power to take decisive action and collapse the Executive.

Had Arlene Foster wanted to make life easy for her partners in government she would have volunteered to stand aside even for a token few weeks to allow some sort of investigation into the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scandal.

But she won't throw even that bone their way.

And in today's Belfast Telegraph interview she does Sinn Fein no favours, pointing to Martin McGuinness's illness and saying his party is in turmoil.

Sinn Fein, which pledged to "put manners" on the Establishment, is being slapped down at every opportunity. It's accepting this treatment because it has become so comfortable within the system.

Wander around Parliament Buildings and you can see the party's attachment to riding the gravy train.

Sinn Fein defends its position by stressing the need to protect the political institutions. But that fondness for the institutions isn't replicated in either nationalist or unionist working-class areas because they haven't delivered anything for ordinary people.

Despite DUP propaganda, unionist grassroots are enraged at 'cash for ash', but the party will probably escape electoral disaster by playing the sectarian card.

That old trick doesn't work as well for the Shinners nowadays. More and more nationalists just aren't voting, and People Before Profit is growing in size and stature.

It's a DUP scandal but, as Sinn Fein's spineless response continues, it is that party feeling the heat.

Belfast Telegraph