An articulate, intelligent war hero takes on republicans
Doug Beattie, bestselling writer and liberal UUP MLA, is gunning for Sinn Fein, writes Ruth Dudley Edwards
Most unionists hesitate to take on Sinn Fein fully frontally, fearing demonisation by their numerous unscrupulous spinners and their army of social media abusers. After all, remember what happened to Arlene Foster last February when she declared that she would not yield on an Irish Language Act because, "if you feed a crocodile it will keep coming back and looking for more". She was referring to the Sinn Fein party, which is notorious for pocketing concessions ungraciously and then upping the ante. But within hours, the mighty republican rapid reaction force had insisted she was insulting all nationalists, thus cranking up the ethnic tensions that, in that and the subsequent election, continued the remorseless process of destroying the middle ground.
Because it wants to be in government again, the DUP is circumspect about harshly criticising Sinn Fein, unlike Jim Allister, the only MLA of the tiny Traditional Unionist Voice party, which he set up when he split from the DUP over its decision to go into government with Sinn Fein. Allister is a criminal lawyer who recently explained that his opposition to an Irish Language Act is because Sinn Fein wants a "rights-based" act rather than "a needs-based approach" because it will give the opportunity for "an endless flow of legal challenges" which will cost the taxpayer a fortune.
Their view of the exchequer as a magic money tree was exemplified by a target of Allister's, Catriona Ruane - best-known for her enthusiastic involvement in the Bring Them Home campaign which lobbied for the return of the "Colombia Three", Irishmen whose only crime was to train Marxist revolutionaries in methods of killing people. Subsequently, she was an unpleasant Minister for Education in Northern Ireland and from May 2016 a principal deputy speaker of the Assembly, which earned her £55,000 a year.