WHEN will the DUP tell the DUP to stop using the pandemic as a party vehicle?
With the return of Michelle O’Neill to the Executive following her Coronavirus ordeal, we have at last got a return to the emphasis on joint and public interest decision making. And not a minute too soon. DUP helter skelter libertarian approaches to Covid only serve internal DUP interests, they flat ignore the public interest.
While Michelle O’Neill had been laid up, the DUP tried to recover from their long, hot summer of in-fighting and used September to begin acting in their old ways. Releasing statements on party political bases rather than as ministers in a joint Executive, they lost the run of themselves regarding Coronavirus measures.
However, now in this moment collective and determined leadership is required. Messing for political party purposes, risking health and the Health Service is unconscionable.
Paul Givan’s bizarre statement that he wanted to see an end to all restrictions by the end of September was made as the infection numbers were in the stratosphere and without recourse to his colleagues in the Executive. Maybe he had forgotten he is joint First Minister, something for which he would be forgiven as God knows the rest of us have.
The man who might have been our current minister for the economy Paul Frew, engaged in Trumpesque Covid pronouncements this week as he asserted that he has supported as many people with the side effects of the vaccinations as he has with the virus itself. Which seems strange given his constituency has at times suffered exceptionally high rates. He was not asked by his party to delete these assertions.
Paul Givan’s gymnastics the next day outside the Royal Victoria were painful to watch. Trying to play to his party’s gallery he asserted some of the old “but people are suffering mental health issues” tropes to justify Covid recklessness, while simultaneously admitting that his end-of-September deadline for the ending of restrictions is now off the table. He then had to stand in ignominy as Michelle O’Neill, who by her own admission is not back to herself, took complete charge and talked of a Health Service on the brink of toppling over, with reference to the health professionals working under unimaginable strain on all of our behalf. Such was the strength of her performance she was only short of turning to Givan and saying there would be no return to the status quo. But she didn’t need to say it. Her actions and command of the situation said it for her.
It is notable that Jeffrey Donaldson has nothing to say about his lacklustre Stormont team and their incomprehensible approach to the health crisis. But maybe he is too busy chasing TUV Protocol positions to notice.
Thank you to First Minister @paulgivan, Deputy First Minister @moneillsf and Health Minister @RobinSwannMoH for visiting the Royal Victoria Hospital this morning to hear from staff from our Emergency Department and ICU teams. pic.twitter.com/WjUhXCpmu7— Belfast Trust (@BelfastTrust) September 21, 2021
On Monday, in an unprecedented statement, Antrim Hospital urged families to bring those medically fit home and care for them to free up beds. On Tuesday the joint First Ministers stood outside the Royal looking exactly as they should when told by health workers that the health service will fall. This is of course not a good news story for any of the parties. There are zero party political winners in this context, it only highlights pervious failures to implement the desperately needed health care reform measures.
However, now in this moment collective and determined leadership is required. Messing for political party purposes, risking health and the Health Service is unconscionable. But don’t expect any different from the DUP.