Return to Recent Articles menu

The Stormont fish rots from the head

Covid failures lead to sectarian provocation

21 October 2020

The most recent outbreak of sectarianism at the northern Assembly appears to have been brought to a close when Agriculture minister Edwin Poots and the Democatic Unionist Party issued a "sorry - not sorry" statement about a recent sectarian diatribe by the minister.

What is of interest here is not the vile sectarianism archetype of the dirty Catholic promoted by Poots  - Covid was multiplying in Catholic areas at six times the rate of clean law-abiding Protestant areas - but the sheer inability of the system to respond.

Poots was breaking ranks on the overall plans for lockdown.He was backstabbing DUP leader Arlene Foster and sabotaging a carefully crafted common position,  yet little could be done.

Foster walked on eggshells. No-one ever went broke in the DUP by playing the Orange card. Sinn Fein asked for an apology. The other parties announced unity in a situation where it was clearly absent.

One of the outcomes of Covid in the North has been a widespread contempt for the multiparty administration. Utterly divided,  incompetent and with little in the way of professional expertise,  they stumble from statement to statement,  from strategy to strategy. The likely outcome is an astronomical increase in illness, but despite calls from the British Medical Association the DUP are too sectarian to agree common all-island rules and Sinn Fein to weak and incompetent to insist on them.

The Poots story tells us that the balancing act between business interests and health is most unpopular in the DUP and that the blame for further outbreak will not be placed at the door of administrative incompetence but with the fecklessness of the population, with an added twist of sectarianism - it was Catholic fecklessness. With Brexit looming on the horizon we can see how quickly the Orange card can be played in a period of economic decline.

There was little response to the Stormont spat.  The Good Friday Agreement has acted as a comic book Freeze Ray to prevent any change.

As long as the left groups and trade union leaders mistake rigor mortis for stability and peace,  the way out of stasis will be delayed and many will pay a price with their health and their lives.

Return to top of page