Editorial: DUP's journey back to power-sharing can start in Washington DC

Our politicians are in the United States this week for St Patrick's Day celebrations and meetings at the White House with President Joe Biden.

President Biden's intention to come to Ireland next month, in a visit focused on the north and the landmark 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, has further raised the profile of the Irish delegations from the worlds of business, civic society and politics who are in Washington DC.

The flurry of trans-Atlantic activity comes at a time when key institutions of the Agreement – the Stormont Assembly and Executive – have collapsed.

Power-sharing's future hinges for now on how the DUP responds to the Windsor Framework and whether it decides to bring to an end its boycott of Stormont – a pointless exercise which has only heaped further pressure on hard-pressed public services and deprived voters of democratic representation.

That is why the words of DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, who is in the US with party colleagues Gordon Lyons and Emma Little-Pengelly, are being listened to so closely.

Sir Jeffrey has already set up a committee, with former leaders Peter Robinson and Arlene Foster among its members, to help assess the Framework. Many hope this is an exercise designed to eventually ease the party back to Stormont, which is surely still the DUP's inevitable destination.

However, Sir Jeffrey's interventions in the US seem to make the path back to power-sharing more difficult than it needs to be.

While again accepting that the Framework represents "significant progress", he has said it was "insufficient" and "does not go as far as we need in terms of our tests".

Sir Jeffrey repeated his criticisms in an address to the National Press Club in Washington DC on Wednesday, while also complaining about Sinn Féin "drumming up hundreds of thousands of dollars for a divisive border poll campaign".

Others may observe that it is Brexit, in particular the DUP's entirely disastrous involvement, that has contributed most to the divisiveness that characterises our politics today.

Sir Jeffrey also spoke more positively, of the necessity for mutual respect and the "need for us to move forward together" if Stormont is to be restored and secured "for the next generation".

That, of course, is what needs to happen. It is long past time for Sir Jeffrey to bring his party in that direction. Many in Ireland, the United States and elsewhere will hope that journey begins now, in Washington DC.