Unionists should insist on basic conduct from SF for Stormont return

Morning View
Morning View

The staggering hypocrisy of Sinn Fein, between the way that it behaves, and the conduct it demands of others, seems to grow by the week.

Michelle O’Neill, like an immature student, stormed out of a meeting with James Brokenshire, dismissing what he had to say as ‘waffle, waffle, waffle’.

Martina Anderson disgraced herself at the European Parliament, telling Theresa May to stick her border plans “where the sun doesn’t shine”. On election night on BBC, the Sinn Fein MEP lurched between shrill, triumphalist and aggressive. Gerry Adams called Owen Paterson a tube.

Yet when Arlene Foster talked about feeding the crocodile, a reasonable if clumsily-phrased observation about the insatiable potential republican appetite for concessions, she was taunted for months. Michelle Gildernew stood grinning as the former IRA man Sean Lynch mocked Mrs Foster when she left the election count, ‘see you later alligator’.

These are people who consistently show how ill-suited they are for high office, yet who rarely face the scrutiny and scolding for their conduct that the DUP does. Yet at all times, they must be in power here or else everyone is punished.

Now we have Michelle O’Neill planning to speak at a commemoration of IRA would-be Loughgall murderers so fanatical that they are rumoured to have caused unease among doveish Provisionals. In any sensible world, no mainstream political party would even contemplate sharing power with a leader who lauds such a gang of terrorists.

This raises fresh doubts as to whether it is appropriate to rush back to Stormont by June 29. Unionism needs to issue demands of its own, not merely reacting to republican ones – ie insisting on basic standards of behaviour from Sinn Fein.

Arlene Foster was yesterday behaving with dignity and respect towards Irish-speaking pupils, as you would expect from a first minister. If Sinn Fein cannot behave the same way, it again prompts the thought that a lengthy period of direct rule might be the least bad option for Northern Ireland.