Arlene Foster needs to stand aside.
She needs to stand aside because she is implicated in the RHIfinancial scandal that is of epic proportions, the scale of which we really have not fully appreciated, due to facts and figures still needing to be fully disclosed.
She needs to stand aside because she holds the position of First Minister in the power sharing executive and as such must hold higher standards in public office.
She needs to stand aside because she is currently mistaking higher standards in public office for watching her own position and back.
I have not said she needs to stand down. Yet.
Right now she needs to stand aside for a full independent investigation to take place. An investigation that can garner the confidence of the angry and disenchanted tax paying population. And an investigation that gets to the facts of the process, the true financial implications of the RHI and yes the truth of who needs to take responsibility.
The longer she pretends that she is the sole mistress of all she surveys and acts like a bad pantomime villain, raising her voice maniacally when challenged, the space of generosity to say stand aside rather than stand down diminishes.
The space for generosity is already small. As I wrote a number of weeks ago, the bad manners and blatant sectarianism of the DUP has already done damage. The nationalist and republican population are sick, sore and tired of a “partner” in government that acts with a sense of entitlement, no manners and absolutely no regard for the Good Friday Agreement and its shared institutions. I am certainly sick of an attitude that appears intent on insult to all things Irish while sticking “Northern Ireland” down our throats as though we will somehow succumb to a false identity through sheer weariness.
So this crisis does not come in a bubble, but in a context. A context that makes some people say “Walk away”, “pull it down” or something like that. But think that through.
Firstly that would inexorably damage the Good Friday Agreement. The institutions are an integral part of our peace agreement. Peace agreements are not built for the sunny Van Morrison singing days of chuckles and friendship. They are built for the hard days. When the cold winds of DUP anti Irish sectarianism blow. Allowing the institutions to fall from a sectarian onslaught would be a fundamental mistake. Just like when others use the tactics of gross violation against us we must uphold human rights all the more, when anti agreement elements take conflict era tactics to our agreement we need to work harder than ever to preserve its integrity.
Arlene Foster is undermining the integrity of the institutions. The DUP is actively trying to tear up the Good Friday Agreement. So the question that faces us is this. Do we allow them to do that? Or do we rededicate ourselves to an agreed shared future based on mutual respect for both identities? And I do not mean bending over for anyone.
Tearing it down would leave it to them. And to the Tories who are equally anti-agreement and want to defeat our community in peacetime. Clear heads, straight backs and determination to deliver institutions of integrity for all of our community are required.