The First Minister’s ongoing attempts to shift the blame for the recent mayhem from his own shoulders are merely highlighting the confusion which exists in his own party on the basics of democracy – a confusion which brings into serious question his suitability for the position he holds.
As joint head of the devolved administration in Northern Ireland, the First Minister’s prime role is to uphold the Rule of Law. Yet on an ongoing basis, since his party’s endorsement of illegal breaches of Parades Commission determinations last summer, he has failed to do so.
Mr Robinson refers to the “settled status quo” on the flags issue. Far from it, the “settled status quo” is the one endorsed by all sides at Stormont in 2000, the one accepted without opposition by his own party colleagues in other Councils, and the one endorsed by 44% of the whole population (as opposed to just 38% of his preferred option) in a recent poll – namely, designated days. Mr Robinson would do well to note he is First Minister not of Unionists, but of Northern Ireland – in all its diversity.
In truth, the First Minister’s ongoing attempts at blaming everyone else are an attempt at deflecting attention from the fact his party started a Shared Future (or “CSI”) process which has come up with precisely nothing. What is required, urgently, is a new process involving direct dialogue with sides on an equal basis. Such a process could do worse than start with an absolute public commitment by all sides to the Rule of Law, and full backing to the PSNI’s application and enforcement of it – in time to avoid a long hot summer and further economic mayhem.