DUP's bizarre attitude towards Joe Biden

The bizarre nature of what passes for political debate in the absence of a functioning Stormont executive has been epitomised by suggestions that any decision by US president Joe Biden to drop tentative proposals for a trip to Belfast can somehow be presented as a triumph for the DUP.

For many months, DUP figures have been trying to give the impression that they effectively hold a veto over an unconfirmed visit in April by Mr Biden which they would not hesitate to use if they did not get manage to get their way during the EU/UK negotiations on the Irish protocol which had to be introduced after the Brexit debacle.

The DUP's former agriculture minister Edwin Poots, who managed to survive for slightly less than three weeks as party leader in 2021, said specifically last October that the US president, rather than recognising the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, may well be coming over to its funeral.

Paul Givan, the DUP's former first minister for some eight months, struck a similar note at the same stage when he was reported as saying that spoiling Mr Biden's plans would be very much to the advantage of his party.

A much more realistic assessment was provided by the US Democratic Party Congressman Brendan Boyle last week when he predicted that the president will indeed come to Ireland on a suitable date during his term of office but would not necessarily either include Stormont in his itinerary or attend events marking the passage of a quarter of a century since the Good Friday breakthrough.

It should be remembered that Mr Biden is the leader of the western world at a time when he is entirely focussed on preventing a global conflict as a result of Russia's appalling invasion of the Ukraine.

Despite what the DUP may think, the inability of small groups within a tiny region on the edge of Europe to administer their limited devolved powers is unlikely to impact on the president's wider agenda during an international crisis of enormous proportions.

Mr Biden is still commendably proud of his strong Irish roots, and in a unique position to facilitate investments and initiatives which would bring major benefits to all sections of our divided society.

The idea that the DUP might set out to claim credit for blocking this process is a telling comment on where the party stands during a defining period.