The DUP needs the cover of the UUP more than it realised
It's hard to believe it but Mike Nesbitt, the most unlikely of leaders, may have done this statelet some service by deciding to call time on nearly twenty five years of inconvenient slip ups by paramilitaries which have included punishment beatings, victimisation, racketeering and of course murder.
This time Nesbitt has finally decided not to turn a blind eye and has pulled his party from beneath the ugly scaffolding that has been holding together a fragile enforced coalition of misfit parties. Of course there is more than a degree of political opportunism behind his move but the indignity and piousness of those criticising him is astoundingly hypocritical.
Sinn Féin's criticisms are particularly whimsical. This party can create crisis like confetti.
How many veiled threats about instability have Sinn Féin leaders given various Chief Constables and Secretaries of State when the spotlight fell on their nefarious activities?
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Journalists, commentators, victims, opposition parties, police, governments and even former comrades are all anti peace process or in league with Satan when they dare to criticise Sinn Féin? Shoulders up boys, in politics you stand alone armed with your arguments not your muscle.
Sinn Féin may be electorally skilful but they have yet to learn the rules of democracy- Stormont and the Dail are not their fiefdoms. They have yet to understand that what is good for Sinn Féin may not be good for the country. Seventy five percent of the electorate in the north don't vote for them and nearly 80 percent in the Republic of Ireland don't either, ergo-they don't speak for the people of Ireland.
Lofty commentators who live light years away from the cosh of paramilitary bully boys and whose flirtation with the smell of sulphur has become an opium to them, decry Nesbitt as the man playing roulette with the stability of Stormont. But Mike Nesbitt is not the one making a mockery out of our democracy.
Nesbitt's actions may have triggered a political storm but its others whose fingers have literally triggered a crisis. How much internal paramilitary housekeeping is be regarded as normal? How many deaths are to swept under the carpet for the sake of political expediency? Why should the people of east Belfast or south Armagh accept levels of criminality not acceptable in Finglass or Finchley?
The Alliance party, who until the defeat of Ms Long in East Belfast, have been the main beneficiaries of the largesse of Sinn Féin and the DUP at Stormont choked on their frothy cappuccinos at the prospect of the UUP leaving the Executive. They should not be too disheartened as they have long time been the Uncle Tom's of the NIO and if Stormont does get suspended at least their influence won't.
The DUP are like rabbits stunned by the headlights of the Ulster Unionist robin reliant. It's clear by the mixture of anger and speechlessness from their representatives that they have been wrong footed. They had banked on the UUP tailing behind in their shadow at least until the Assembly elections. Whilst they talk big about leadership the reality is they needed UUP cover. It has taken the UUP a long time to realise that too. But the next move belongs to the DUP.
Nesbitt has proven that what he lacks in political dexterity he has made up for in guile. Timing is everything in politics and time after time both the DUP and Sinn Féin have milked every crisis or pressure point to the limit even paralysing two sovereign Governments into believing that there could be no progress without them.
Successive governments became poodles to their baying hyenas. The governments were happy to leave the carcasses of the SDLP and the UUP to both the predators and scavengers.
Seamus Mallon, the SDLP deputy leader and former deputy First Minister, understood the benefits of using resignation as a power play.
His political successors have never shown the same instinctive nous or bottle. Unfortunately whatever the SDLP chooses to do now is more or less irrelevant as the UUP has stolen the initiative.
Despite their put-downs of both minor parties the DUP and Sinn Féin needed the SDLP and UUP for cover when taking tough decisions; though the DUP needed the UUP more.
If the UUP is really serious about an alternative led Executive to the DUP/SF love in- then Nesbitt needs to abandon loyalist fringe parties with paramilitary links and forge closer links to the SDLP and Alliance. One suspects he is not quite there yet.