On every level the deputy first minister’s criticism of the DUP threat to withdraw Stormont ministers over the NI Protocol is deserving of ridicule.
First there is the absurdity of Michelle O’Neill playing up the problems from “the pandemic, waiting lists and how the Executive is going to take the pressure off our health service”.
What has she, a former health minister, or her party, Sinn Fein, done about implementing health reform in Northern Ireland, the lack of which is so central to the waiting lists disaster? It was one of her colleagues, Bairbre de Brún, who commissioned a report into health provision in NI by an immensely respected official, the late Maurice Hayes. His recommendations for reform were ignored, as have been subsequent expert reports, urging similar reforms.
Then there is the nonsense of Ms O’Neill citing, as she so often does, a global pandemic. Her party has often seemed fixated above all on the long-term politics of that pandemic: an all-island approach to create a united Ireland policy.
In any event, Sinn Fein’s credibility was shattered when, having damned Boris Johnson’s handling of Covid, party leaders presided over a flagrant breach of social distancing at an IRA funeral — a disregard for Covid limits that was devastating to see for thousands of other people who accepted small funerals for their loved ones. The weak authorities failed to hold anyone to account for that pre-meditated breach.
But above all there is the farce of Sinn Fein talking about “reckless” behaviour when it used the cover of RHI to collapse Stormont in 2017, then keep it down — and hospitals rudderless — for three years until its Irish language ransom was paid. And when that ransom wasn’t delivered fast enough, SF was weeks ago threatening to collapse things again.
Incidentally, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson’s latest plea to the prime minister, to tell Joe Biden about the damage done by the Irish Sea border, is both welcome and apt.
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