Belfast Telegraph

Time for politicians to get back to work

DUP leader Arlene Foster
DUP leader Arlene Foster

Editor's Viewpoint

As the dust settles in the aftermath of the General Election, the DUP finds itself in the extraordinary position of being the kingmaker at Westminster, and propping up Theresa May's minority government.

These are heady days for the DUP, and a significant period for unionism.

However, it is also a time of high risk which demands that the party plays its political cards properly.

The DUP finds itself at the very heart of national politics, and as a result it is open to close scrutiny by politicians and commentators across the water who, up to now, have had little or no interest as to what the party stands for.

These people will come to form their own conclusions in the very near future, and it is up to the DUP to try to ensure that they are the right ones.

There are great opportunities for the party, for unionism and for the people of Northern Ireland in getting the best Brexit deal possible, and avoiding a "hard" border with the Irish Republic.

Because of the results of the election, there are other constitutional gains for British unionism in general.

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The poor showing of the SNP most certainly takes a second Scottish referendum off the political agenda for a considerably long time to come.

The speculation about a border poll here is now likely to linger on a long finger for quite some time also, and much longer than the opponents of unionism would like.

This is partly due to the excellent performance of the DUP in winning 10 of the 18 Westminster seats, and also the fact that the party now has the ear of the Prime Minister herself, and for obvious reasons.

It should be noted that Sinn Fein also had a good election, and took seven seats. However, given its Westminster abstentionist policy, it is cutting itself off from Parliament's Brexit negotiations and political influence.

When it comes to negotiations, the DUP has a good reputation for its hard-headedness and pragmatism. The party can boost the hopes for better funding here on health, education and other matters.

It can also help to allay the fears of many people in Northern Ireland, including the farmers, about many of the likely repercussions of Brexit on this island.

Previously, Arlene Foster was criticised for not acting as First Minister for all the people of Northern Ireland, but now - given a strong hand at Westminster - she and her party can show with skilful and tough negotiating stances that they can deliver for a wide range of people here on a wide range of topics.

Meanwhile, there is much to be done locally, and the clock is still ticking on the attempts to restore power-sharing at Stormont.

Given the mood music between the two major parties in the recent elections, and the huge losses in the middle ground, it is a huge ask for power-sharing to be restored.

No doubt Sinn Fein will also query the close involvement of the DUP with a British Government which has to be seen as being a strictly neutral mediator between the two parties.

Despite the apparently increasing polarization here, the fact remains that the ordinary people desperately want the Assembly to start its work again.

While the major political developments both here and in Westminster are gaining much attention, the stark reality remains that we need joined-up government at Stormont to make progress on a whole range of important issues.

The old adage, "Where there's a will, there's a way" still holds true, but the majority of people in Northern Ireland are still bluntly asking the Stormont politicians: "Do you really have the will to make it work?"

Belfast Telegraph


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