If SF opt out of politics, the process must move on for everyone else

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial
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The implications of the elections in Britain and Ireland, and indeed across the European Union, are still sinking in.

There is a lot of contradictory information to assess.

The results clearly pose questions for a large range of different political parties and movements, including the Conservative Party and, in Northern Ireland, the wider unionist family.

One of the parties that has most to think about is Sinn Fein, which polled very badly indeed in the Republic of Ireland.

When the republican party performed poorly in the Irish presidential election, that failure could at least potentially be attributed to its low-profile candidate. But the double failure in the Republic’s council and MEP elections last week suggests a wider trend.

Sinn Fein did just top the poll in Northern Ireland, but its supporters are now claiming that its 3.3% drop in first preference vote share here (compared to 2014) was intentional, and an attempt to boost Naomi Long. But there is other evidence that many nationalist voters were simply more attracted to Alliance than to Sinn Fein — for example, twice as many SDLP voters transferred to Ms Long as did to Martina Anderson.

A simple statistical fact is that Sinn Fein, an all Ireland party, has done badly in elections across the island, albeit only modestly badly north of the border.

Whatever way we interpret or crunch the election results, the party has been allowed to collapse Stormont and keep Northern Ireland without an executive, that ought to be steering hospital and school and other policy, until its blackmail demand of an Irish language act is met.

Why has this blackmail been rewarded with a general review, chaired by various civil servants, into the operation of devolution, divided into different spheres of politics? It ought to be simple. If Sinn Fein opts out of mandatory coalition, the process must be allowed to move on for the representatives of the near 80% of voters who backed other parties.