Tuesday, 12 January 2010
The six-week-long gang-plank
You know the DUP are in deep trouble when they appoint Arlene Foster as their interim First Minister. The problem with Peter Robinson, we were told, was that he was lacking in warmth and personal appeal. Maybe Arlene has loads of charisma secreted somewhere in the basement of her personality but she’s never allowed it to slip free that I’ve noticed. As to her abilities - if she made a rousing success of her ministerial portfolio, it’s not something that I’ve noticed. The truth is, the DUP have appointed what they hope is a safe pair of hands, to keep the rickety wagon on the road for six weeks while they draw their breath and begin to worry seriously about the electoral cliff-edge towards which they were – maybe still are – careening. I don’t see Peter Robinson coming back in six weeks or six months, except he’s got a Lazarus gene none of us has been aware of; and I don’t see Arlene reinvigorating her party. The fact is the DUP are screwed no matter what way they turn. If they refuse to concede policing and justice devolution, Sinn Fein are going to do something pretty dramatic, since their electoral fortunes may well turn on whether the nationalist/republican electorate have run out of patience with Sinn Fein patience with unionism (still with me?). ‘Enough is enough’ Gerry Adams said at one point during the weekend, regarding DUP foot-dragging on policing and justice devolution. You betcha. A lot of nationalists/republicans share that sentiment and they’ll be looking for signs that SF isn’t a doormat, as the Westminster elections loom. If the DUP do agree to policing and justice, the traumatized unionist electorate may well declare ‘Enough is enough’ – of making concessions to republicans – and they’ll migrate en masse to the thistle-thick pastures on offer from one Mr J Allister.