Mary Kelly: It has always been a unionist mindset that they are the ones 'giving' nationalists their rights

 Edwin Poots leaves DUP headquarters in east Belfast on Thursday after he said he will stand down as the party leader following an internal party revolt against him. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Mary Kelly

I HAVE honestly lost track of the number of stop-starts there have been since Stormont first attempted to run its own affairs.

I'm not surprised that Sinn Féin gave up expecting Poots and Co to honour their pledges on Irish language legislation, so asked Westminster to bring it in instead.

Yes, there is an irony in an Irish republican party asking London to legislate on Irish language provision. But then this is not a normal place.

The normal rules don't apply, though even for this place Edwin Poots's demise after just three weeks as DUP leader is extraordinary.

He couldn't get his party's support to carry out what was agreed as far back as St Andrews in 2006.

Poots was supposed to have been the architect of the proposals to break the last logjam at Stormont and said he was proud of what he had negotiated.

The circumstances around his swift ousting reflect the lack of proper leadership in the DUP.

Arlene Foster seems to have grasped some of the requirements of the job just as she left the post. Quoting Samuel Beckett, she said, "Let's be generous. Let's be good neighbours."

That generosity was in short supply when she was talking about feeding crocodiles who would always come back wanting more.

It has always been a unionist mindset that they are the ones 'giving' nationalists their rights as if dishing them out from the equality bucket, which will leave themselves with a little less.

Let's not forget she would so respect the traditions and aspirations of others that she would pack her bags if there was a united Ireland. Methinks the packing might already be in the planning if a seat in the Lords beckons.

It's tiresome hearing callers to local radio shows complaining that there are more important things than the Irish language, like health service waiting lists, as if there had to be a choice between brain surgery and Irish.

The endless foot-dragging over the issue has made it toxic and also totemic. It is more than just passing overdue legislation, it is about properly acknowledging and respecting that there is another tradition in this country.

Arlene quoted Beckett. I'll go with Seamus Heaney in The Sabbath Breakers when he said, "We lived there too."

Until unionists grasp this simple fact then there is actually no hope for shared government at Stormont. And ultimately, it will mean Northern Ireland has no hope of celebrating any other big anniversaries.


HAVE you ever listened to an account of someone who has been let down by the health service or some other authority on a radio programme only to hear the response, "We can't comment on individual cases"?

You might wonder why not, since the person has waived their right to anonymity in an effort to get the situation sorted. You might well think it's a handy get-out-of- jail-free card for authorities who like to mutter 'data protection' and 'patient confidentiality' to avoid the issues raised.

Our family has been battling the Belfast Trust for the right to see a health assessment report which meant our elderly mother was unable to return to the residential home that she had been happily living in for the past seven years.

After a spell of breathlessness she was taken to the Mater Hospital at the end of April. Nearly two weeks later we were told she would be discharged after a course of antibiotics and was only being kept in that weekend for "a bit of TLC", but no other medical treatment..

Then came the bombshell. An assessment was sent to her residential home which apparently said her condition meant she now needed nursing, not residential care.

I say "apparently" because a social worker at the hospital wouldn't allow us to read the report and said we had to put a request in writing to the Trust to see it.

We've sent emails, proof of my sister's power of attorney etc., but eight weeks on we were still waiting - until I threatened publicity. Then I got a phone call to say they were working on our access to the report.

In the meantime, our 93-year-old mum is confined to a bedroom in a nursing home.

She cannot leave the bed to sit in the lounge for company because she needs a special chair. That needs an assessment by an occupational therapist and there is a waiting list for that.

This is what care for the elderly looks like in 2021.

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