Time for DUP to respect other traditions

The latest census figures have been comprehensively analysed and it is now up to ordinary nationalists, unionists and those who do not identify with either main tradition to decide where the wider debate is going to take us.

It has been widely suggested that the result of any border poll will depend on how the first two groups engage with the third, and set out their vision for a society in which tolerance and respect will be key elements.

The evidence is that the DUP has much more work to do in this regard than anyone else, and particular attention will have been paid to proceedings at the Mid Ulster District Council on Thursday.

Clement Cuthbertson, a party representative, made the blatantly untrue allegation via social media in August that a tournament for children aged seven and under at the Coalisland Na Fianna GAA club was named in honour of a 1981 republican hunger striker.

The initiative was actually a tribute to a completely different person, the late and widely respected chairman of the Coalisland club Francis Hughes, and a simple and straightforward retraction from Mr Cuthbertson would have resolved the matter.

Instead, when challenged at the council meeting, Mr Cuthbertson made it clear that he was not prepared to consider any form of apology for his error and went on to launch a further series of crude and factually flawed attacks on the GAA.

Mr Cuthbertson is plainly unaware of the enormous amount of outreach work carried out by the GAA across Ireland and the progress which has been made in developing links with other sporting and cultural bodies.

When he offered his thoughts on the naming of sporting events after republican figures, it was noticeable that he made no reference to one of the most prominent competitions over many years during the Féile an Phobail in west Belfast, the Bobby Sands Cup.

This was of course a soccer trophy, and, while it would have been hugely unfair to criticise the Irish Football Association about games which were not under its jurisdiction, DUP politicians have often felt able to denounce the GAA over matters which it had equally no control.

The question is whether the DUP is prepared to allow its elected representatives to perpetrate serious falsehoods or is finally ready to acknowledge its responsibilities over community relations as we enter a crucial period.