Arlene Foster in Killarney - An olive branch, but challenging

DUP leader Arlene Foster’s speech in Killarney at the weekend was, if not entirely palatable, entirely welcome.

Using the opportunity to speak to her neighbours over the heads of Sinn Féin, Ms Foster showed an understanding of why we are so troubled by Brexit but underlined the DUP position that it is not in Northern Ireland’s interest if the Republic does not prosper.

Her conciliatory, open-the-door tone has been seen as an olive-branch gesture to try to rebuild relationships after a pre-Christmas row over Border issues after Brexit — a row exacerbated by Foreign Minister Simon Coveney’s greenhorn misstep when he spoke about a united Ireland “within his political lifetime”.

A reciprocal South-to-North gesture to Ms Foster’s might be appropriate and beneficial.

Ms Foster defended DUP support for Brexit, a position rejected by the NI electorate, and pointed out that the DUP was always opposed to the EU, which emphasised again the great gap between hardline unionism and the pro-EU position of the majority of people and political parties in the South.

These differences may, in time, be as difficult to resolve as any that have confounded our relationships in the past.

It’s just 50 years since Stormont prime minister Terence O’Neill and then taoiseach Jack Lynch met. Unionist extremists ensured that the meeting came to nothing.

It would be a pity if Ms Foster’s Killarney gesture fell on equally barren ground. We all have much to gain by responding positively.

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