Unionists will be rightly suspicious of any deal with SF

News Letter editorial

Suddenly it is reported that there is likely to be a Stormont deal, and speculation as to its contents.

This comes at a time when it was becoming an almost an accepted wisdom that an agreement between the DUP and Sinn Fein was unlikely.

The former was said to be disinclined to compromise because of its current influence in London, and also because of the mood within unionism. The latter was said to be focusing on politics in the Irish Republic, and disinclined to help unionists govern Northern Ireland at a time when there are so many challenges such as Brexit that the party can exploit.

The aforementioned mood within unionism is almost universal: everyone can see the broad outline of what republicans have been up to over the last year, even if only republicans themselves know their exact tactics and intentions.

We know they are trying to de-stabilise Northern Ireland.

We know they are fanning grievance in young nationalists.

We know they are taking advantage of the fact that they cannot be excluded from the increasingly untenable system of mandatory coalition.

We know they have cynically hijacked issues such as gay marriage, to turn as many people as possible against unionists.

We know that they are trying to use the Irish language as yet another wedge in a deeply divided society.

We know they want legacy structures that give disproportionate funding for inquests (many of them into the deaths of IRA men) to change the narrative of the Troubles.

If, for some reason, the party have retreated from that approach then a deal might make sense. But even if so they have behaved in a way so as to maximise suspicion. There must be special scrutiny of special scrutiny of legacy concessions, the scandal of which Doug Beattie writes about, opposite. And also of Irish language legislation, to make sure it is not the act Sinn Fein want under the disguise of a culture umbrella.

It is hugely encouraging to hear Rev Mervyn Gibson of the Orange Order reiterate that they will “not back any reward for use of the language in the SF-IRA cultural war”.

Unionists warn DUP: Don’t concede on language act

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