TWO decades on from the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) some may find it depressing that the politics of the North often felt as polarised as ever during the heated campaign in the run up to last weekend’s election.
During that campaign, and in the months previous, many nationalists felt comments from the DUP and others were disrespectful, so much so Sinn Fein made it a central tenet in their campaign. It has also been cited as the reason for such a strong nationalist turnout last Thursday.
Since the election results became clear at the weekend, on the other side to the political divide, feeling threatened by that growth in the nationalist vote and the ever-growing possibility of a border poll, unionist rhetoric on social media has taken a defiant turn.
It’s not difficult this week to find comments along the lines of “stop letting the wicked witch promote the terrorists” on the DUP’s own Facebook page, albeit littered among many more encouraging calls for the parties to “sort it out” and get on with the business of governing.
According to outgoing MLA Richie McPhillips, who failed to retain his seat at the weekend, the polarising rhetoric can be traced right to Arlene Foster herself, who he accused of “alienating the nationalist people” and credited with “driving people out” to the polls.
“She was First Minister, and in that position you should be First Minister for all,” said the former SDLP MLA.
“I did say on the doorsteps, I don’t make any apology for it and I’ll say it again, the fact of the matter is some of the statements of the DUP, and indeed the DUP leadership, of this last year has set us back, in many respects, 20 years.”
Mr McPhillips said next year was the 20th anniversary of the GFA, but comments stating nationalists were “rogues and renegades and crocodiles” had “set us back years.” He added that “the polarisation of the two big blocs”, namely the DUP and Sinn Fein, “taking up such entrenched positions” did not bode well for the future.
“Hopefully, maybe, sense will prevail and all parties will say to themselves, we’ve had ten years of an opportunity to do something for this wee place. It’s long past the time that constructive politics should be taken precedent.”
It’s not just the DUP, though, with Sinn Fein being accused of making the way forward more difficult after newly re-elected Sean Lynch called “see you later aligator” after Arlene Foster and her supporters as they left the Omagh count centre on Friday, cheered on by a strong SF contingent in the hall.
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Posted: 3:42 pm March 8, 2017