Foster's Greek Tragedy At Stormont

Martin Galvin with a letter that featured in the Irish News on 13/02/2017.

A chara,

In ancient Greece, playwrights often wrote of protagonists brought down from great heights when arrogant overconfidence or hubris blinded them to danger. Like a Greek tragedy, Arlene Foster now finds herself in political jeopardy she might have avoided, but for her own arrogance and hubris.

She had reasons for thinking herself invulnerable. Ten weeks ago she had Martin McGuinness co-sign an Irish News (November 21st) platform piece touting 'mutual respect' and 'delivery' while delivering what Gerry Adams termed "deliberate provocation, arrogance and disrespect." Corruption, Red Sky or Nama were not worth mentioning. Unionist opposition also seemed incapable of mounting any serious challenge.

RHI could have been a minor annoyance. Martin McGuinness invited Foster to copy Peter Robinson's Irisgate shuffle. Robinson, in January 2010, shuffled in Arlene Foster as stand-in First Minister. Three weeks later, Robinson returned triumphant with some legal opinion (or comfort letter.)

Had Foster shuffled in a stand-in and safe inquiry leader, she might have already returned in triumph with RHI 'money to burn' and DUP corruption claims behind her.

Instead, blinkered by hubris, the 'Iron Lady of Unionism,' gave her "I regret others let me down" speech at Stormont. The DUP followed with its Christmas card cut-off of Irish study funding. Sinn Fein's grassroots could swallow no more.

The party had bogged down in an obsolete strategy. During the Stormont Agreement talks, the British would volunteer some confidence building gesture or statement e.g. proclaiming no selfish interest in keeping the six counties. Republicans would reciprocate to show good faith and keep momentum forward.

Greeting English royals, 'sorry' initiatives, "Towards an Agreed and Reconciled Future" etc were devised to build goodwill with DUP members and, slowly, erode Unionist fears.

Unfortunately, the British and DUP stopped reciprocating. Instead of confidence building measures to be repaid, the DUP saw only concessions to be pocketed, while demanding more concessions. DUP voters enjoyed watching Foster putting Martin McGuinness in his place.

On legacy inquests, austerity, a Long Kesh Centre or Irish funding, the British stood back while the DUP squeezed out concessions. Sinn Fein could take any meager results as somehow a victory or admit a defeat. 'Rollover Republicanism' emerged.

Foster expects to be rescued by Unionist voters on March 2nd. She expects more partnership at any price. Once Republicans lived up to Terence MacSwiney's words: "It is not those who inflict the most but those that can endure the most that shall prevail". Surely we have not come down to trying to prevail by enduring more "deliberate provocation, arrogance and disrespect" inflicted by Foster and the DUP at Stormont.   


Martin Galvin


  1. A very good letter as it hits the nail right on the head. I'm surprized the Irish News published this letter.

  2. Don't be surprised if RCs vote big for SDLP and the OU only to see to their horror and disbelief, unionists voting the DUP and Arlene back in with an even greater mandate.