Edwin Poots’s brief tenure as DUP leader has come to an abrupt and somewhat farcical end. The nature of his rapid rise and fall, however, underlines the deep instability, not just in his party, but in the ‘peace process’ as a whole.
Paul Givan and Michelle O’Neill have been nominated as First and Deputy First Minister, following the British government’s commitment to introduce Irish language legislation over the heads of the Stormont politicians, and despite the opposition of a large majority of DUP MLAs in an internal vote.
While the institutions may stumble on for now, however, this crisis is not over. These events - and the deep divisions within the DUP - reflect the reality that the ‘peace process’ has entered a new and turbulent phase.
In April, Health Minister Robin Swann admitted that it could take 10 years to address the waiting list crisis in Northern Ireland. With the suspension and curtailment of many services, the Covid-19 pandemic had a massive impact on waiting lists. Even before this, however, Northern Ireland’s health waiting lists were amongst the longest in Europe, and the longest of any NHS region.
The Socialist Party welcomes the announcement from the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) that all charges related to last summer's Black Lives Matter protests in Belfast and Derry are to be dropped. The PPS recognised that the events were organised in a responsible manner, aimed at minimising the risk of Covid, and that they related to a matter of "important social concern". All fines against those who took part in these protests - and a similar protest against gender violence in Belfast, organised by ROSA in the wake of Sarah Everard's killing - must be immediately rescinded and reimbursed.
In May, Hovis workers in Belfast won an 8% pay increase over two years through a determined, all-out strike that lasted for 11 days. The actions of this workforce are an inspiration to others in the sector and beyond, as employers across the private and public sectors are trying to use the economic crisis sparked by Covid to attack wages, terms and conditions, or as an excuse for miserly pay-offers.
The total disregard hospitality bosses have demonstrated towards their staff over the last year has created a labour shortage, as many workers have chosen to leave the industry for good. Now is the time to get organised, join a union alongside colleagues, and go on the offensive for a real living wage, an end to precarious contracts and for better working conditions.
The fact this motion was passed overwhelmingly - and that it was put forward by two UUP MLAs - is significant, given that the Assembly only backed marriage equality for the first time six years ago. Even the DUP and TUV put their opposition in much softer terms than they would have in the past. This speaks volumes about the positive change in attitudes taking place in society. These are being driven from below - represented by the 20,000 people who marched for marriage equality - not by the politicians at Stormont.
We know that Sarah ‘did everything right’; she walked a busy route, she made a phone call and let people know where she was going and when she was going to be home. But that didn’t stop the violent attack that cost her life. Almost 80% of women killed by men in the UK were victims of their domestic partner and were killed in their own home. Safety measures would not have protected them.
Boris Johnson’s announcement that schools will close until February half term is yet another U-turn from this shambolic Tory government – one which has been forced by the huge pressure from below by education workers.