Maurice Hayes: DUP and Sinn Fein becoming the parties of middle-class voters
Published 09/05/2011 | 05:00
IT'S A long way from Clontibret to here: from crying in the wilderness to undisputed leadership of unionism.
Perhaps the most encouraging feature of the Assembly election was the note struck by Peter Robinson in his acceptance speech -- the absence of triumphalism, the invocation of the memory and the public-service ideals of the murdered Constable Ronan Kerr, and the commitment to work with other parties for the betterment of community relations and social and economic conditions for all. It contrasted with the sour note struck in defeat (and it was defeat, if not palpable meltdown) by the leader of the party which had for so long presented itself as the moderate wing of unionism.
The outcome of the election in many ways reflects the fortunes of the party leaders -- for Peter Robinson, unalloyed triumph, for Martin McGuinness, resounding success, for Margaret Ritchie, disappointment, and for Tom Elliott, deep and unqualified disaster. For Alliance, to have substantially increased the share of the vote and gained a seat is perhaps the promise of better things to come, if not yet a breakthrough. It should, however, secure a seat in the Executive in addition to the Justice portfolio held by David Ford.