“The changes in this [recent] election are rather marginal”. That’s Graham GudgIn, once adviser to David Trimble, talking about the impact of the election to the Assembly. Graham is a very smart man – he’s currently got a post of some sort in Cambridge – but he’s a very stupid man if he really believes that the recent election was “rather marginal”.
Open your eyes, Graham. The thing that unionist politicians have been telling us for years would be calamitous – a Sinn Féin First Minister – has just happened. True, First and Deputy First Minister hold identical power – no move can be made by one without the other’s consent – but in symbolic terms a Sinn Féin First Minister is pretty huge.
It’s also noticeable in small things. Back in the good old days when a unionist was First Minister, the Deputy First Minister was kept firmly second-best. Ian Paisley as First Minister used to refer to Martin McGuinness as ‘my deputy’; Peter Robinson and Arlene Foster, as First Ministers, were always first to greet visiting dignitaries, with the Shinner Deputy always in second place for the handshake or the greeting.
Besides, Graham, as a unionist, you’ll know that what’s really eating Jeffrey Donaldson is not so much the protocol as the fact that, if the protocol were fixed or removed, his fig-leaf would be gone and he’d be exposed as someone who would find it hard to smile if he was put in second place behind Michelle O’Neill. Or even alongside.
Power is a drug and unionist politicians have been having regular injections of it since the foundation of the stateen 100 years ago. To ask them to accept democracy when it delivers a result they don’t like is to make them go cold turkey. Which is not a pretty sight.
So no, Graham, there was nothing marginal about what happened a short while back. The light of democracy has been shone on the DUP and they’re left blinking and bewildered and afraid.