DERRY JOURNAL Editorial : Where now for the DUP? For us?

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It’s been a turbulent few weeks in politics, even by the north of Ireland’s standards with the DUP providing most of the edge of your seat drama as first Arlene Foster and her successor Edwin Poots were brought down by their own colleagues amid growing fissures, with leaks and resignations falling into the cracks. 

Politics is a brutal game, but that a party whose strength lay in its presentation - outwardly at least - of an unbreakable, iron cast united front, was willing to sacrifice two leaders in two months in such a public manner is shocking. Whatever internal wranglings there have been in the past have been by and large kept under the radar until, that is, the astoundingly swift forced eviction of Arlene Foster. Whatever the other reasons, her abstention from a vote on banning gay conversation therapy has been cited as a factor.

For her successor, already having to contend with a party split on its own future, the final straw was going ahead with nominating First Minister Paul Givan after Sinn Féin secured a commitment from the British government that it would legislate for the long delayed Acht na Gaeilge. It says a lot that for some within  the DUP this was a step too far. It was seen as a concession rather than allowing their own failure to honour a commitment it had made 15 years ago and repeatedly backtracked on to be put right.

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And whoever takes the still warm top seat, whether it is Jeffrey Donaldson or not, will inherit the same issues that toppled his or her predecessors: The protocol the DUP helped birth by backing Boris and Brexit, a reluctance to admit to itself that the DUP no longer calls the shots in the north or at Westminster, and an inability to see just how all this is coming across to the electorate . 

The truth is, the world has moved on; society has moved on. Nothing stands still and even the deeply entrenched traditions and identities we have here in the north are constantly shifting and evolving, and modernising. An ever shifting world requires flexibility in the political arena. Our young people are mixing more and more; more Catholics and Protestants, unionists and nationalists and those of other creeds and none work alongside each other, socialise together, inter-marry and increasingly choose integrated education. Suspicion, fear and tribalism are slowly eroding from our society and so too will support for those who fail to keep up. The DUP are at a crossroads now. Like every party, they have a choice to make - look back or look forward. Choosing wrong will prove damaging for all of us here, and could be fatal for the DUP itself.