OK – hands up if you’re glad that Martin McGuinness got fed up with the DUP dragging their heels on devolution of policing and justice? Right. That’s everybody except the little man wearing an Alliance Party badge who says there’s much to be said on both sides. Me, I think it’s time. An objective consideration of the exchanges between the DUP and Sinn Fein over the past two years will show that Sinn Fein, if not bending over backwards to be pleasant to the DUP, have come dangerously close at times to stooping down low before them, and we know where that got some other people a while back. For their part, the DUP have gone back to the animal terminology: the Shinners need to be house-trained. That, I think, was Trimble’s line originally – remember old David? Ah me. Seems like a lifetime ago. But of course Big Ian was using the same kind of language a bit more skilfully – remember that time he told a visitor to Stormont that if he wasn’t able to eat all that was put in front of him, he’d give it to ‘the deputy’ and ‘he’d gobble it up’. Get that? A small ravenous dog that greedily fastens on anything the humans may put in front of it. That’s you, deputy. You’re a dog. You need to be house-trained. And so do the members of your party.
These little DUP outbursts are helpful because they remind us, not how hard it is for some unionist politicians to share power with republicans, but how difficult they find it to regard republicans (and maybe nationalists too) as human beings. Maybe that’s the secret dear old Charlie Haughey knew when he described Northern Ireland as a ‘failed political entity’. If in your deepest heart you think your opponents are sub-human, the whole idea of equality in the state, much less sharing power, is unthinkable. Scary line of thought, eh? It’s like pulling back the curtain in the Wizard of Oz, to discover not a loveable old guy but something smelly and monstrous.