A clear triumph for Arlene Foster and the party she leads

Morning View
Morning View

It was a good day for unionism yesterday at the polls but a particularly triumphant one for the DUP.

Arlene Foster deserves congratulations for her resounding mandate as DUP leader and First Minister.

The party defied its critics and held its ground, despite widespread predictions that it would lose seats.

The final tally was unclear last night, but seemed to be in the range of 38-39, which at worst is the same as 2011’s total of 38. Sinn Fein’s projected tally was from 27-29, no more than the 29 it won in 2011.

There are a number of possible explanations for the result, but in summary it is clear that unionist voters in Northern Ireland are happy to have the DUP as standard bearer.

And while the positions of First Minister and Deputy First Minister are almost equal in terms of power, symbolically they are not and hundreds of thousands of voters still will not tolerate the party that was apologist for the IRA terror campaign be seen globally as the face of Northern Ireland. The DUP and Sinn Fein are not even close in Stormont seat totals.

Mrs Foster said during the campaign that she would not allow history to be rewritten to justify the IRA. She has the support not just of unionists in that aim, but many non unionists. It will be one of the most pressing challenges of her new administration. Already there is a push to fund legacy inquests, including into the IRA gang who were rightly stopped by the SAS at Loughgall, and all those findings will be used to imply that the state was brutal and that the IRA was necessary.

This is a difficult time for the Ulster Unionist Party. It needs to decide if it wants to be in the Executive or in opposition. Mike Nesbitt will be mindful that many unionists just want unity.

But for now things are good for unionists in Northern Ireland, as it approaches its centenary. Irish unity seems an increasingly distant prospect.

The DUP, at the helm, can concentrate on the tasks in hand: defeating dissident terror, creating jobs, reforming health and welfare and weaning the economy off subsidies.