Saturday, 13 March 2010
United we stand?
“’Tis the eye of childhood fears a painted devil” Shakespeare said, and he could have been thinking of a number of current unionist leaders. That not-so-secret-after-all pow-wow at Hatfield House between the DUP, the UUP and the Tories was prompted by the unionist stuff of nightmare: that Sinn Féin might become the single biggest party here. It’s always something, isn’t it? It used to be that Sinn Fein might overtake the SDLP; unionists managed to stave that off for a while by voting for Joe Hendron in order to block Gerry Adams’s election in West Belfast. Then the cry was “Imagine if Gerry Kelly became Minister for Justice!’ Oh holy Jeez, let’s do anything to stop that happening. Now that that’s been removed as a threat, at least for the time being, we’re on to ‘Sinn Fein could become the largest party and Martin McGuinness could become First Minister – oh holy Jeez, let’s do anything to stop that happening!’ So the DUP eyed up the UUP and the UUP eyed up the DUP, and then they both decided that it’d be better to risk the painted devil of Martin McGuinness as First Minister rather than have to hunker down and sit thigh-by-thigh with their ghastly fellow-unionists.
Don’t feel bad, guys. If you think you hate each other, check out the SDLP feelings for Sinn Féin. And remember how Winston Churchill felt when he was first brought into parliament by an older party colleague. “Well m’boy” the senior man said. “There are your enemies”. And he gave a sweep of the hand towards the serried ranks behind them. “Surely you mean over there” Churchill said, pointing across the chamber to the opposing party. “Aren’t these people behind us our colleagues?” “Precisely” the older politician said.