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Editor's Viewpoint

Sinn Fein's on a loser playing blame game

Editor's Viewpoint


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Conor Murphy (Niall Carson/PA)

Conor Murphy (Niall Carson/PA)

Conor Murphy (Niall Carson/PA)

When the Northern Ireland Executive collapsed in January 2017 the public consensus was that Sinn Fein had been forced by its supporters to pull the plug because it was felt the party was playing second fiddle to the DUP.

Whatever the validity of that argument it is clear that having returned to the power-sharing administration after a three-year hiatus the republican party is determined to show it is no pushover anymore.

While it has to be conceded that the Executive has worked well in general terms in combating the coronavirus pandemic, tensions between Sinn Fein and the unionist parties occasionally emerge.

The problem for Sinn Fein is that it is forced into embarrassing U-turns too frequently when it attempts to make a solo run on some issue. In March Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill called for schools to be closed to contain the virus having stood alongside First Minister Arlene Foster the day before to endorse the decision to keep them open.

Then in April as the pandemic was accelerating she criticised Health Minister Robin Swann for suggesting that the Army could be used to distribute PPE in the province, later admitting that she would accept such help if it was required.

Finance Minister Conor Murphy has been less than sure-footed. Earlier this year he insisted that an order for PPE from China had been made, but later conceded that other buyers had muscled in on it.

And yesterday he hit out at Tory austerity, saying that the lockdown would not have been necessary if the NHS had been properly funded. After a barrage of criticism he was forced into a U-turn admitting the lockdown had saved lives.

His comments were a sideways swipe at Mr Swann, a man who most people regard as being sincere in trying to help everyone in Northern Ireland and who has taken on a herculean task and managed it well.

It could be pointed out that if Mr Murphy feels that more money needs to be spent in Northern Ireland, as Finance Minister he is the person to do it, or at least request it from the Treasury. After all, the parties went back into government at Stormont without signing off any proper financial deal.

Blaming everyone else for problems in the economy is not the leadership expected of one of the major partners of government.

Belfast Telegraph