Arlene Foster’s sudden announcement of her intention to resign as leader of the DUP and First Minister is an important turning point in politics in Northern Ireland. Only the day before the announcement, she was dismissing as rumour the suggestion that 75% of DUP MLAs and MPs had signed a letter calling for her and other senior figures to go.
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.
DUP MP Gregory Campbell is still refusing to apologise for racist remarks that he made over a recent episode of Songs of Praise. The episode in question, the final of the competition for Gospel Singer of the Year, was performed and judged by an entirely black cast of musicians – fitting for a genre which originated in black churches in the US from the descendants of slaves who adopted Christianity when their own religious beliefs were forcibly suppressed.
The scandal around the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme was a key factor in the collapse of Stormont in early 2017. The scheme allowed claimants to profit through perverse ‘burn to earn’ incentives, completely undermining its supposedly green purpose. It seems, however, that RHI was only the tip of the iceberg.