Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Little sign of political vacuum at Stormont being filled

Editor's Viewpoint

The journey made by Martin McGuinness from a senior leader of a ruthless terrorist organisation to effectively co-leader of the devolved administration at Stormont has been well chronicled since his death exactly a year ago.

By its very nature his life in the IRA remains blurred, but there are many who will never forget or forgive what he is reputed to have done or ordered.

Yet, astonishingly, almost alone among republicans he won a grudging admiration from a significant number of unionists in his later years for the political path he trod and how he acted as deputy First Minister for a decade.

His 'Chuckle Brothers' relationship with the Rev Ian Paisley was perhaps the most astounding sight in the history of Northern Ireland. It was evident from the reaction of the Paisley family after his death that there was a genuine respect between the two.

He also forged a pragmatic, working relationship with Peter Robinson which kept devolution going and both were able to present a common purpose on trips abroad.

But the relationship between the DUP and Sinn Fein finally floundered just over a year ago and it was obvious from McGuinness' resignation letter that he and First Minister Arlene Foster had a very fraught working relationship and little mutual trust.

History will note that McGuinness' decision to resign threatened the peace process by creating a political vacuum which even yet shows few signs of being filled.

The relationship between the two major parties has been described as toxic and both have adopted such trenchant, polarised positions that reaching an agreement continues to look unlikely any time soon.

Would McGuinness like to be remembered as the man who brought devolution to a shuddering halt? In his resignation letter he stressed how he had tried to create reconciliation and had stretched republicans in the pursuit of a working, devolved government. Even his critics would have to admit that he had the personality to make things work in the main between two parties with irreconcilable political ideologies.

But Sinn Fein has stuck pretty close to the list of complaints he made in his resignation letter and it is unlikely that he would have fudged them had he still been alive.

The problem for unionists is that there seems no one in the Sinn Fein leadership who they feel comfortable doing business with or even believe really want devolution restored.

Belfast Telegraph

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