AS we speed towards the first anniversary of the Covid pandemic, we look back and we see that countless mistakes have been made, countless missteps taken and countless chances missed.
It was never going to be any other way. Not a single person in any position of authority had the vaguest idea of how to deal with what the once-in-a-century crisis; not the scientists, not the statisticians, not the virologists, and certainly not the politicians. Although looking back we see that some learned much, much more quickly than others.
What is as clear as day is that our failure to exploit our island status will be seen by posterity as our single biggest failure. And much as many might like to paint it as an Orange and Green issue, much as they may want to argue that petty political differences stopped us from grabbing the chance to make Ireland the New Zealand of the northern hemisphere, the simple fact is that multiple factors were at play in the failure of Dublin and Belfast to come together quickly to deploy the powerful tool of a sea border.
We have pointed out on numerous occasions the tensions being placed on the Executive by the fact that the DUP’s Westminster wing was operating independently of the leadership, saying and acting as it pleased and devaluing any positive efforts being made by their colleagues in the Assembly to work with the other parties.
But today there is only one reason why the parties in the Executive are not moving forward in a spirit of co-operative responsibility. And that reason is the DUP. Quite simply, the party is in turmoil. We have pointed out on numerous occasions the tensions being placed on the Executive by the fact that the DUP’s Westminster wing was operating independently of the leadership, saying and acting as it pleased and devaluing any positive efforts being made by their colleagues in the Assembly to work with the other parties. But now that indiscipline has spread virus-like to Stormont and we have an Agriculture Minister, Edwin Poots, who seems intent on making First Minister Arlene Foster’s position as leader even more precarious than it was last year.
His claim that food suppliers had indicated to him that in a couple of months’ time supplies to schools and hospitals could be hit thanks the damage being caused to the supply chain by the new regime governing GB-NI imports was not one that was recognised by any other ministers who had been speaking to the same people, although at different times. Mr Poots has claimed there is a minute of the meeting which vindicates him. If that is the case then he is being extremely tardy in using his considerable ministeral clout to have it released. Minister Poots followed that up this week with a claim that jelly and gravy could soon go missing from the supermarket shelves. The choice of items was so obviously ludicrous, so comic in effect, that we are left wondering whether we are being gaslit as part of some tawdry internal DUP battle for control.
Any cursory examination of events over the past two months will reveal that four of the five parties in the Executive have been treating the twin threat of the pandemic and Brexit with the seriousness it demands. One party is the rowdy child at the dinner table. The party leadership – whatever that means right now – must now put lives over squabbling.