Belfast Telegraph

The mask finally slips as the petty politics gets well and truly under way

By Suzanne Breen

Never mind the heat from the RHI scandal, the hot air from the DUP and Sinn Fein is raising the local political temperature to record highs, and we're still six weeks away from polling day.

Flags, the Irish language, the health service and even traffic wardens - there is no issue too big or too small for the two parties to employ in battle.

Let's just pause before we consider yesterday's argy-bargy at Stormont. Here are the words of Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness in their first joint platform piece published just eight weeks ago.

"Day by day, slowly but surely, politics here is changing. And it's for the better. The focus is increasingly now on policies and delivery - on finding the best ways to make people's lives better," they proclaimed.

"We are in this for the long haul. There is much more to do, but we are proud of the achievements to date. This is what delivery looks like. No gimmicks. No grandstanding. Just ministers getting on with the work."

We can now see this for the nonsense it was. These two parties couldn't stand each other, but they were happy to join forces to try to wipe the public's eye in pretending everything was going like a dream.

And it wasn't just the old-timers smiling for the cameras and talking tripe. The young ones were at it too.

Junior Ministers Alastair Ross and Megan Fearon attended a Together Building a United Community event in Dungannon.

Alastair waxed lyrical about the importance of promoting good relations to "build a peaceful, multicultural and tolerant society".

Megan philosophised about breaking down barriers and constructing positive relationships.

Today, their parties stand in different corners of the ring trading insults and abuse.

Sinn Fein says that the DUP are a bunch of bigots with whom it's impossible to do business. Their former partners in government retort that the Shinners mightn't wear masks any more, but they're still intent on destroying democracy.

Addressing the Assembly yesterday, DUP MLA Keith Buchanan said that Coalisland was the only town in his Mid-Ulster constituency with a lack of traffic wardens.

"Is there a fear of redcoats for whatever reason?" he asked Sinn Fein Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard.

Don't be surprised if the absence of TV licence investigators in south Armagh is next on the DUP's list. That's how petty it's become.

But Sinn Fein shouldn't get away with spouting the line that life with the Duppers was a living hell.

If second-class citizenship was all that was on offer, why were they happy to cosy up to their coalition partners for 10 years?

After all, the nationalist community was told that this was the party which would negotiate the unionists and the British under the table and would "put manners" on all and sundry at Stormont.

DUP MLA Philip Logan yesterday said that Sinn Fein was "attempting a re-run" of last May's election.

"We on these benches do not dance to the tune of Sinn Fein," he pledged.

That may well be so, but the DUP needs to dramatically improve its act because its performances thus far have been disastrous.

Successive party spokesmen on BBC's Nolan Show and Talkback programme have missed more steps that Ed Balls on Strictly Come Dancing. The audience at home will deliver their verdict on March 2.

Belfast Telegraph


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