The First Minister and his DUP colleagues accused the Alliance Party and John McCallister (then of the UUP) of not being serious about a Shared Future because they walked out of talks between the Assembly parties on the subject.
Now, however, the DUP admits there is still no Shared Future strategy, and has indeed taken to advocating that there should not even be one – with Finance Minister Sammy Wilson arguing it will only be needed once the economy is sorted out.
In other words, the talks the DUP, Sinn Fein and the SDLP remained involved in were an utter sham. The DUP and Sinn Fein never had any intention of delivering a Shared Future strategy. The only thing they wanted to share was the blame for not delivering one – by bringing all the other parties around the table and then refusing to make any progress.
If anything, it took the Alliance Party too long to walk out. Like most advocates of better community relations, the Alliance Party has to realise that communal parties – whose interests are directly served by not having a Shared Future – are no friends. People who will make progress on good relations are not those who are motivated to maintain bad relations in order to keep in place the very division from which they derive their power (except where irrelevant partisan posturing is involved, everything in the Assembly – from same-sex marriage to whether or not to take jackets off on a warm day – gets split along those lines).
It turns out the Alliance Party and John McCallister were entirely right in their analysis that the DUP/Sinn Fein-led talks on a Shared Future were a total sham. Their walk out was fully justified. Those who condemned them for it – from the First Minister downwards – now owe them, and us, an apology; and perhaps an analysis of what precisely is wrong with the Alliance Party’s own proposals, published earlier this year. Of course the Alliance Party, which only entered the Executive in return for a commitment to a Shared Future strategy, will have to decide its own position in due course – it cannot be complicit in a blatant failure to deliver, which has social and economic consequences for us all.