One election pact deserves another

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Brace yourselves. The election campaign is getting underway. For the next seven weeks we’ll have to endure absurd hype. We’ll be told it’s the most important/the closest/most exciting/most expensive/hardest fought election in history. Some things about elections never change.

Last week, Stephen Nolan was deeply troubled by the notion that the election here in the North could be a sectarian headcount. Imagine that! The biggest show in ‘the country’ host’s concern followed the news of an electoral pact in four constituencies between the DUP and Ulster Unionists. He had representatives of the four main parties, including the MP for Cúil Rathain agus Léim an Mhadaidh, in the studio to argue the toss. It was like Jeremy Kyle for politicians. They come on air to fight like warring couples for our entertainment. If you heard a row like it in the street you’d walk on in embarrassment. Of course we weren’t any better informed after the ‘debate’.

Stephen, every election in the North of Ireland since the second half of the 19th century has been a sectarian headcount and it won’t change anytime soon. Do you remember at a DUP conference First Minister Robinson once made an encouraging speech to his ‘troops’ about no more them and us politics? Well, forget about that now. The pact confirms it. It’s entirely about them and us.

The thing is, so long as unionists want a sectarian headcount I’d give them plenty of it. That’s why the SDLP and Sinn Féin need to get over themselves and agree their own pact.