When Alan McBride, who tragically lost his wife in the 1993 Shankill bomb, challenged Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill to a live television debate linked to the possible restoration of power-sharing government in Northern Ireland he might have done so more in hope than expectation.
The likelihood of either party agreeing to such a public debate in front of potentially many thousands of television viewers was always going to be remote.
When asked by the News Letter about the prospect of Mrs Foster accepting Mr McBride’s invitation, the DUP at least had the courtesy to respond, and its statement was timely and telling.
A party spokesman rightly questioned whether such a debate would deliver anything positive or resolve the many questions that remain outstanding, and secondly – and more importantly – underlined that the blame for the present impasse rests squarely at the feet of Sinn Fein and its highly unreasonable demands.
It is Sinn Fein which continues to boycott the Assembly, the Executive, and Westminster, and it is Sinn Fein which has ruled out a return to devolution because of, among other things, its intransigence over the Irish language.
At a time when the annual winter pressures on the health service in Northern Ireland are about to mount, it is unforgivable that Sinn Fein should choose to prioritise Irish road signs at the expense of helping to tackle long hospital waiting lists or indeed improving school budgets.
Mr McBride’s motives for the TV debate are commendable. However, the bottom line is that it is not unionism or the DUP which is to blame for the lack of locally elected government in Northern Ireland for approaching two years.
The blame lies with Sinn Fein, its leaders Michelle O’Neill and Mary Lou McDonald, and their flimsy attempts to suggest otherwise should fool no-one.